I recently took a listing and went through all my questions that I ask the seller, but there was one answer that I knew I had to check on, because she didn't know. The question was has the oil tank been removed or decommissioned?
You see, I had sold a few homes in the area of this home and knew 95% of the homes in this area, when they were built, had oil heaters. Her house had an electric heater and, as far as she knew, it had always had an electric heater and never had an oil tank.
So, knowing she had only owned the home for a couple of years, I decided to check the MLS for the old listing and found that the home had been sold 5 times in the last 8 years. Each time it showed the home having electric heat and no mention of an oil tank ever having been there.
So, I decided to make two more phone calls to the city and DEQ. Sure enough they had the home listed as having an oil tank that was still in use and hadn't been removed or decommissioned.
My first thought was great, I just cost my client $5,000 or more, if this oil tank that is still somewhere on the property has leaked. But, my second thought was how far back did this oil tank history go? How many buyers of this property didn't know it was there?
Fortunately or unfortunately for my client it only cost her about $1000 to decommission the tank and there was no sign of leakage or ground contamination. But, I told her she couldn't cover it up or she would be committing fraud against the buyer despite her not being told it was there.
I told her to contact a lawyer to see if she could recover the cost of the decommissioning, but to this date she still doesn't have an answer, because I'm guessing, like her, the previous five buyers didn't know it was there.
I basically told her that it was better that I found it than the buyer and then maybe having to go to court and still end up having to pay that, or more. So, if you are buying a property in an area that is know for having oil heat, then I suggest you make that extra couple calls before you purchase that property or it could cost you later.
Todd Clark (Principal Broker)