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À prendre is a French term, which means “to seize” or “to take.” Latin is not the only language that has found its way into common legal vernacular. This French term is often used in property law in reference to a profit à prendre, which is a right of one party to harvest or mine raw materials — e.g., oil, timber, or other natural resources — off of the property owned by another person. Profits à prendre may be granted by the owner of the land to any other party, and are generally done so through a contract.
Profits à prendre are typically referred to simply as “profits” and are often granted to a company for a fee to make use of the natural resources on a private landowner’s property. For example, companies may contact an owner of land in an area that has recently discovered an oil deposit for permission to drill for oil on his or her land. This landowner may consider several different offers but then may grant a profit to the highest bidder, granting that company the right to extract as much oil as is bargained for in the profit agreement. A common bargained for requirement by a company is for an exclusive profit, which gives that company the sole right to utilize the natural resources on the landowner’s property.
The rules of creating and terminating a profit are similar to the more common rule of granting an easement, which is a grant by a landowner to another party the right of ingress or egress through his or her land. Typically, a profit à prendre is created through a written agreement that details the right of the profit holder to which and how much of the natural resources existing on the land to which it has a right to extract. The agreement will also typically govern the event that will lead to the termination of the profit agreement. Generally, termination in a profit agreement is determined by either a passage of time or a certain amount of resources extracted.
Profits à prendre do not grant in the profit holder an absolute right to utilize the land with no limitations. Even if none are specified in the agreement, the landowner may bring an action asserting that the profit holder has abused his or her discretion and harmed the land if the company has unreasonably stripped the land of its resources. This action is called “surcharge” and may result in monetary damages to the landowner amounting to the amount of harm the profit holder caused on the land as well as the termination of the profit agreement.
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