top of page

The Texas Strips and Gores Doctrine

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

You might have seen (or even signed) a deed that contains language similar to this: "...including all of Grantor’s right, title and interest in and to adjoining streets, alleys and rights of way, strips, and gores, unto Grantee and Grantee’s successors and assigns forever." But what are "strips" and "gores"? And why do they matter in Texas real estate?


What are "strips" and "gores"?


"Strip," quite appropriately, refers to a narrow strip of property. In this context, they are usually narrow roadways across or along one property.


"Gore" is a surveying term that refers to triangular or otherwise irregular pieces of land, usually where roads meet. They are often the result of surveying errors.


Those are their technical definitions. But from a practical standpoint, they are the small pieces of land left over or left out of conveyance documents, often inadvertently.


Why does it matter?


When it comes to transfer of real property, it is critical that the property be accurately described in the transfer document (usually a deed). If there is an easement (a right to use a portion of the property), that will need accurate identification as well. This means every square inch needs to be included. But drafters often make mistakes, resulting in omissions or unintended inclusions.


Title issues are ubiquitous in every state. A substantial part of my practice in California involves correcting a title issue here or there, and the same is becoming true of my Texas practice as well.


Consider a simple example: Blackacre is surrounded on all sides by other properties. There is a road between Greenacre and Redacre that is owned by Blackacre's owner. When the owner transfers Blackacre, he does not include the road in the deed. This would mean that the new owner owns Blackacre while the former owner still owns that road. From a legal standpoint, he could potentially block access to Blackacre.


What is the "Strips and Gores Doctrine"?


The doctrine holds that, if a grantor of real property fails to include strips and gores in the transfer, those strips and gores are presumed transferred unless there is specific intent to the contrary. This makes sense, as there is usually little value in transferring real property but maintaining narrow strips and small irregular pieces of land. "hen it is apparent that the narrow strip has ceased to be of benefit or importance to the grantor of the larger tract, it can be presumed that the grantor intended to convey such a strip." Angelo v. Biscamp (1969) 441 S.W.2d 524, 527.


It's a public policy doctrine, designed to avoid and preempt unnecessary litigation, and to avoid the thousands or millions of narrow strips of land throughout Texas without a clear owner.


This presumption applies only where the deed is ambiguous. That is, if the legal description is unclear on its face, or if there is a discrepancy between that legal description and the physical land. If there is no ambiguity, then there is no need to use the strips and gores doctrine.


What do I have to prove for it to apply?


The doctrine "requires the strip (1) to be small in comparison to the land conveyed, (2) to be adjacent to or surrounded by the land conveyed, (3) to belong to the grantor at the time of conveyance, and (4) to be of insignificant or little practical value." Glover v. Union Pacific Railroad Company (2006) 187 SW 3d 201, 212.


Does this apply to public roads?


Under Texas law, the conveyance of a parcel of real property bounded by public roads carries with it the real property up to the center line of that road. So if Blackacre is bounded by a road on two sides, a conveyance of Blackacre will also convey the land under those roads up to the center line unless the deed clearly says otherwise.


What about oil or mineral rights?


Interests in natural gas, oil, or minerals are also affected by the strips and gores doctrine. This was an issue in Glover (referenced above). In Glover, the original owner sold a 165-acre tract of land to Union Pacific (and others), while Glover (and others) eventually obtained title to a remaining strip with valuable mineral interests. The Texas Court of Appeals at Texarkana held that strips and gores would have conveyed the remaining strip (but, unfortunately for Glover, that claim was barred by the statute of limitations).


Conclusion


The Texas strips and gores doctrine is a rule of construction that is meant to reflect the intent of the grantor and grantee, but also to avoid unnecessary litigation. It is a presumption that small strips of land, on their own worth very little, transfer along with the rest of the land unless there is a clear intent otherwise.

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Top 5 New Laws in Texas for 2024

Happy New Year! Sorry that this post is coming in late. As always, January 1 brings with it a slate of new laws. My criteria here are: what I thought was interesting, what will impact my clients the m

Top 5 New Laws in California for 2024

Happy New Year! Sorry that this post is coming in late. As always, January 1 brings with it a slate of new laws. My criteria here are: what I thought was interesting, what will impact my clients the m

Comments


bottom of page