Living Beaverton - Your guide to everything Beaverton


Who do you call, when no one remembers? Heck, how do you tell the seller?

photo courtesy of scol22I 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.


Respect Realty LLC (Expect More)


At Respect Realty, LLC our agents believe in 100% dedication to client satisfaction.  We specialize in property and land acquisition around the Portland Metro and Vancouver, WA area. We delight in working with first time home buyers and sellers to guide them from start to finish. Our doors are always open and we are always happy to assist you with your real estate questions.


Reach out today, we look forward to talking with you!


Todd Clark and Seraina Aguayo (Owners of Respect Realty)

Respect Realty LLC (Expect More)



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Comment balloon 14 commentsRespect Realty LLC • February 01 2009 12:44PM


We don't have that problem here in Detroit thank goodness.d

Posted by Russ Ravary ~ Metro Detroit Realtor call (248) 310-6239, Michigan homes for sale ~ (Real Estate One) over 11 years ago

Hi Todd~ This is when working with an "experienced" Realtor really makes a difference.  Good job with the "detective" work and protecting all of those that would or could be involved!

Posted by Vickie McCartney, Broker, Real Estate Agent Owensboro KY (Maverick Realty) over 11 years ago

Todd, fortunately we don't have that problem.  Our big issue these days is who owns the mineral rights?

Posted by Heather Goodwin, GoodWin Team Realty (Licensed by the Louisiana Real Estate Commission) over 11 years ago

Hey Todd,

good work. The liability not only lies on the homeowner but on the realtor as well. You did very good work to eliminate that from coming back and biting you and you client. Well done!

Posted by Michael Murphy (Bienvenidos Real Estate) over 11 years ago

Would this fall back on the original sellers way back 8 years ago for not disclosing the oil tank?

Posted by Sonny Kwan, 206-819-8228 (Quantum Group Commercial - Residential - Lease Seattle, WA ) over 11 years ago

I believe an inexpensive solution in a situation like this would be to purchase title insurance for the new home buyer.  If the seller is unaware of any possible defect, the insurance is a very cheap guarantee that there will not be a problem, or if there ever is the cost of remidiation will not covered by the insurance.  For the $200 it costs it might be the best money spent in a situation where there are 'unknowns'.

Posted by Robert May, Real estate consulting (Robert W May - Lethbridge Real Estate) over 11 years ago

Way to cover yourself Todd, you did yourself and your client right.

Posted by Larry Ulfig, Naperville/Plainfield (RE/MAX Professionals South) over 11 years ago

Robert could you explain why title insurance could be used in this situation as protection? 

Posted by Denise Gray, Realtor SRES, Wichita Kansas Homes (Realty World Alliance) over 11 years ago

NH JUST started to keep logs about USTs and have them removed when found.  When they were put in ground, there was no record kept so on older properties, no one knows if they exist or not.  My home was built in the 20s.  We just had ours removed last year and all of the earth around it when re realized it was there.

Posted by Portsmouth NH Real Estate Agent - Rebecca Skane, Realtor®, e-PRO® (Keller Williams Coastal Realty) over 11 years ago


This is a great point and one that the other listing agents should have checked into too.  Maybe I am just assuming too much tho.

Posted by Don Rogers, Realtor, Broker, CDPE, GRI, OnullFallon MO & St Charles County MO homes (Keller Williams Realty Chesterfield) over 11 years ago

Todd, in these parts, oil tanks cost a whole lot more than that to deal with.  We've seen the numbers go to $25,000 for a clean up and at least $10,000 for a proper removal and burial.  And you did the right thing by your seller.  That's a lot less expensive that dealing with a lawsuit at some time in the future.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (Redfin) over 11 years ago


That is a real interesting question as it arises. In Wisconsin there was a department called DILHR. It took care of all underground storage tanks. It had problems and then the department of commerce took over. We are able to look on-line to see if there are underground or above ground tanks registered. However, sometimes they pop up as a "is there" question. I had one while ago that was gas heat in a multi family. It had a walled off heating room. The flag came up when the seller said they were converted some years ago. As I looked in the corner of the basement on the wall where the corners came together I saw a small hole when an oil line had came in one time. Sure enough out tank guy found these big honking underground storage tanks in the front yard of the property.

Hope your selling everything in Beaverton; you are a tremendous asset to the City.

Tom Braatz 

Posted by Tom Braatz Waukesha County Real Estate 262-377-1459, Waukesha County Realtor Real Estate agent. SOLD! (Coldwell Banker) over 11 years ago

You are one of the good apples in Real Estate.  Thumbs up to you.

Posted by Angelia Garcia (Pure Realtors) over 11 years ago

Todd, I think Washington and Oregon are much alike when it comes to oil tanks. I had to decommission several tanks in my previous corporate life. As things get more green this will become a bigger expense for everyone involved...

Posted by Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS, South Puget Sound Washington Agent/Broker! (Fathom Realty Washington LLC) over 11 years ago

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