Information for Realtors

Key Points

  • For older homes, always assume the past use of heating oil.
  • Current owners are often unaware of the existence of underground tanks.
  • Above and underground tanks both present potential liability.
  • Don't assume undocumented or poorly documented tank closure/removal work adequately addresses UST/AST concerns.
  • Request a site inspection for USTs and possible soil contamination at least one month prior to closing.
  • Cedar Rock can normally do an inspection within 24 hours.
  • A property containing a leaking petroleum UST which results in soil contamination exceeding applicable standards will require a Notice of Residual Petroleum (Deed Recordation) to be filed with the host county Register of Deeds prior to the conveyance or transfer of the property. See NCGS 143B-279.11 (d)

Most houses built prior to the mid-1960s used a heating oil system involving an above ground (AST) or underground (UST) storage tank. For sale sign It is common for the current property owners to be unaware of the existence of an underground storage tanks as they may never have used the tank. Over time, it is extremely common for oil to leak from these systems, impacting the underlying soil and the ground water. The presence of soil contamination is not always obvious and can go undetected for years. When leakage is discovered State law requires immediate action to assess and cleanup the impacted soils. All environmental work must be carried out by a NC licensed geologist or engineer.

If soil contamination is discovered, tank removal (where possible), excavation of contaminated soils and associated environmental assessment as specified by State regulations, are required to be performed. If it is not possible to completely remove contaminated soil exceeding applicable standards from beneath the UST, a Notice of Residual Petroleum may then be required to be filed with the host county Register of Deeds office before the property may be legally conveyed or transferred. This work typically requires at least one month to complete.

The fact that a storage tank is located in a limited access location does not relieve the property owner of responsibility to deal with any resultant contamination from the tank. In such cases, alternative courses of action that are prescribed by the relevant State regulations may be applicable. A Cedar Rock site inspection can usually identify any such issues. Further consultation with State Officers from the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources may be required in these and other circumstances.

If a tank is said to have been abandoned by filling with sand, foam etc., or removed, and there is no proper documentation of the work that was done then you should assume that a liability for contamination might still exist on the property. Here is an example of an inappropriate tank abandonment and the problems it can cause!

Leakage from above ground storage tanks must also be dealt with by the property owner under State Regulations. Leakage from an above ground tank may pose more serious difficulty in complying with State cleanup and assessment standards.

Your attention to the environmental issues relating to past heating oil use and its potential impacts to a property is important to your client. Cedar Rock can usually inspect a property within 24 hours of request. Although not necessary, Cedar Rock prefers to perform the inspection in the presence of a realtor, seller, and/or buyer. A typical inspection takes from about 30 minutes to an hour and costs as little as $200.00 depending on location.