Information for Owners/Sellers

Key Points

  • For older homes, always assume the past use of heating oil. You may be unaware of the existence of an underground tank on your property.
  • Assume you are responsible for any soil contamination on your property.
  • Above and under ground tanks both present potential liability.
  • Undocumented or poorly documented tank closure/removal work is increasingly unlikely to enable the sale of your property.
  • Trust Fund reimbursement is currently available for cleanup costs subject to eligibility conditions.
  • Tank removal and assessment typically requires 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.

Even if you are not currently looking to sell your property, be aware that the environmental liability may exist and that if you have not dealt with it to the applicable State standards then you may experience difficulty in selling your property until you do so.

The costs of the required soil cleanup and environmental assessment can be in the range of $10,000 to $20,000! Fortunately there is currently a Trust Fund which can reimburse in many cases, much of the eligible costs of the removal of contaminated soils and the required assessment. Now is a very good time to eliminate any environmental liability which will impede the future sale and/or value of your property.

If a tank has been previously removed from the property but no assessment of possible soil contamination has been performed then a liability for cleanup of soil contamination may still exist on the property for which you are responsible. Likewise, if a tank is said to have been abandoned by filling with sand, foam etc., and there is no little or no proper documentation of the work that was done then you should assume that a liability for contamination might still exist on the property. Buyers and agents are increasingly aware of the issues associated with leaking tanks and it is very likely that they will require you to deal with the problem before a sale is completed.

Leakage from above ground storage tanks must also be dealt with by the property owner or responsible party, as defined 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 your property can save you from difficulty in closing a sale or significant loss of value in your property. If you have a tank which proves not to have leaked then Cedar Rock recommends that the tank be removed, replaced or properly abandoned-in-place to prevent any leakage occurring in the future.

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. Contact Cedar Rock or have your agent arrange a site inspection to give you peace of mind about your prospective sale or property value.