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Underground Oil Storage Tanks. 


Their presence can wreak havoc in any home purchase transaction, especially if you don’t fully understand the issues involved.


So, what’s the problem with underground tanks anyway?  The answer is simple:  leaks and liability. 


Concerns range from soil contamination, ground water contamination, property damage, vapor hazards, fire hazards, loss of property value, and more. 


To make matters worse, the responsibility for remediating any contamination caused by a leaking tank rests solely with the property owner and can be very costly depending on the size and scope of the clean-up. 


Even if you had no idea there was a tank under the ground when you purchased the property, you can’t look to the Seller or any prior owners to try and offset your losses (except in rare instances when fraud or intentional misrepresentation has occurred, which is difficult to prove).  Your general homeowner’s insurance policy likely won’t be of any help either, as oil tank leaks typically aren’t covered except under very limited circumstances such as when they’ve caused damage to neighboring properties or groundwater contamination.

Tank Sweep


The first step is to add a tank sweep as part of your home inspection. 


During the tank sweep, HomeCheck will utilize detection equipment and make other visual observations of the property (both interior and exterior) to try and determine whether a UST might be present under the ground.


HomeCheck will look for evidence of a tank such as fuel lines or vent pipes protruding from the ground or entering the home through its foundation walls, depressions in the yard, patchwork indicating that lines or piping were previously in use and removed, areas of dead grass or landscaping caused by spillage from a fill pipe or from an active oil leak beneath the ground.


The average cost of a tank sweep in New Jersey is about $250, (HomeCheck Charges less than HALF of that!) which is a small price to pay for some peace of mind.  No tank sweep is 100% guaranteed, but compared to the considerable financial liability associated with a possible, future environmental clean-up, it’s a no-brainer that you should get one.

So, anytime you’re buying a home in New Jersey on a piece of land, which is wholly owned by you, and therefore, wholly your responsibility (this excludes condos, co-ops and some townhomes), you should get a tank sweep.  And this is true even if:

  • the home was newly constructed or constructed recently

  • the Seller has assured you that they have always had gas heat at the Property

  • an above-ground oil tank is currently in use at the Property

  • the Seller has assured you that they have always had an above-ground oil tank at the Property

  • an underground tank was already removed from the property, and the Seller has all the proper paperwork to prove that the tank had no leaks

The bottom line is that you do not want to be the one left ‘holding the bag’ because a UST that you knew nothing about and had nothing to do with installing at the property has sprung a leak and caused contamination.  Leave that for the Seller to handle before you become the owner.


In New Jersey residential real estate transactions, if a tank is found in the ground during inspections, the Seller will almost always agree to remove it.  The Seller knows that any and every Buyer will request removal of that tank, and now that the Seller knows about it, they have a legal obligation to disclose the existence of the UST to every potential future Buyer.  In effect, the home will become unsaleable until the UST is removed, so it is in the Seller’s best interests to take care of it now while they still have you under Contract.


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