Home Buying in West Orange>Question Details

First-time H…, Home Buyer in West Orange, NJ

My husband and I have a bid on a house that has an abandoned underground oil tank. the seller has all the paperwork and permits from the town/state

Asked by First-time Homebuyer, West Orange, NJ Sat May 1, 2010

but no soil testing was ever done. we asked if he opposed to doing a soil test and he told us it would have to be at our expense. we don't find this to be very fair however as we see the risk should be taken by him as the seller and also for not getting the proper soil testing done when abandoning the tank 9 years ago. the seller claims that soil testing was not required back then. are we really stuck with having to pay this expense? we got quotes for $600-$800. what if we pay this expense and find out there is contamination and they still don't want to remediate it? need some advice. by the way, our lawyer isn't that helpful and he is telling us that "our concerns are unwarranted". we disagree. we want the soil tested before moving forward. our contract has been in attorney review for 5 days now.

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Just checking back in to give you all an update.....we had the soil tested and it came back fine. No contamination. So we proceeded to do the home inspection. Some repairs needs to be done (clogged sink, electrical outlets need to be GFI protected, glazing needs to be replaced on all original windows (they're all old windows), banisters need to be installed in 3 different locations, garage windows need to be repaired, there are 9x9 tiles in the family room and behind the wet bar in the basement that may contain asbestos, screen needs to be installed for attic whole house fan) . Still a bit scared and irritated because we feel that our realtor and lawyer aren't helping us along like they should be for the amount of money they're being paid. So we are relying a lot on this post which has been extremely helpful through this process. Thank you all again.

To the knowledgeable realtors and competant lawyers out there who can offer some sound advice, what should our next step be? Is it general practice to have the seller correct every single item in the inspection report? We have built a kind of rapport with the sellers. They are very nice people but we also need to look out for ourselves.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 12, 2010
Good luck Frist Time - let us know what happens...........Gordon expressed concern about the taxes going up 6%...........just know that no new tax rate has been set as yet. That won't happen brfore July.

Hope the testing comes out fine///.and that you can move forward smoothly to closing!!

0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 6, 2010
Thank you all for the advice. The seller agreed to split the soil testing cost 50/50. The testing was done yesterday and we should have results by Friday. Monday the latest. Wish us luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 5, 2010
Hi First time,
It is Fran again...soil must be tested as the other agents have stated whether you pay 100% or they split the cost. Just keep in mind that underground tanks are an issue in this area. If they do not remove it before you purchase then when you go to sell the next buyer will very very likely ask you to remove it. Personally I try very hard not to let my clients buy a home with a tank in the ground...tested or not tested. I have seen situations whereby a tank was legally decomissioned and when the new owner went to convert to gas and have the tank removed, there had been a spill enough to warrant a NJDEP# and a cleanup which at a minimum generally runs $10K. The cost to remove the tank now would be around $2000-$2500 for the removal.
My intention is not to scare you but to let you know the whole truth about the possibilities around underground tanks.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 2, 2010
So ... in West Orange NJ, what's the problem if oil leaked from the tank ten or twenty years ago? Is there the potential for groundwater or well contamination?

Here in Seattle, we don't test for soil much. In our collective experience, if enough oil leaked, the neighbors would have found it in their basement already.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 1, 2010
thank you! I will keep you posted.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 1, 2010
be happy to give you his name First-Time

(I think he just moved to this new office)
Stae Farm
Mike Petronella
104 S Livingston Ave

973 994-0472

Good luck....... please let me know how it turns out....I'd be interested to know about the insurance, too.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 1, 2010
Debbie, if you could give me your agents information that would be great. thank you!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 1, 2010
PS did you try State Farm insurance? I have my policy with them...they have been wonderful helping me with a flood I had following the big storm in March.........if you need the name of a State Farm agent, I'd be happy to give you mine...he is in Livingston.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 1, 2010
Hello again First Time

I think it's a good idea, as I suggested, to ask them to split the cost with you....with the caveat that they will remediate if indeed the soil is contaminated.

At the very least, you should have a clause allowing you to walk away if oil is found in the soil,. You may very well decide you don't want to proceed depending on how big an issue it is.

Your point regrading the insurance issue is well taken, and it's something that didn't occur to me when you first asked your question........if you cannot get insurance as a result of the underground tank, I would think the sellers should be responsible....they won't be able to sell the home to anyone else if buyers can't get insurance.

You now have 2 issues to negotiate - the testing.... and the removal of the tank............take a stand, and let your attorney and agent make sure you are protected.

1. split the cost of the test - but the test must be done one way or the other
2. if the soil gets a clean bill of health - ask to have the tank removed due to the insurance problem, and to avoid further headaches in the future when you go to sell.......no one will be able to buy the home if they can't get insurance

I respectfully disagree with your attorney...I do not think your "concerns are unwarranted". They are quite legitimate, and if you can't get the sellers to agree, I would find another home.

Good luck, and please let us know how it turns out!
All the best.........
Debbie Rose
Prudential NJ Properties
email: Debbie.Rose@Prudential NJ Properties
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 1, 2010
thank you all for the quick replies. We're going to propose that the seller pay 50% of the soil testing costs. If they don't go for that we might proceed with the testing ourselves with the contingency that they are responsible for the remidiation if anything comes up in the testing. We tried contacting insurance companies today and several either did not insure in NJ or did not insure homes with underground oil tanks (active or inactive). Another dilema to deal with.... If we soil test and everything is fine we still have a tank underground which now sounds like we'll have a problem getting homeowners insurance.

Fran, the tank was abandoned in place. They provided us with the contract from the tank service that did the work for them along with a construction permit and a UCC Certificate of Approval. The tank service contract states "excavate, cut open, squeegee clean and fill 1000 gal fuel oil tank with sand" it also discloses that they disposed of 70 gals of oil/sludge/water (not sure which).

Any other advice is greaty appreciated.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 1, 2010
Dear first time home owner.

If you are still in attorney review, you can ask anything you want and see if the sellers will comply (including providing all proper documentation.) If you are not satifsfied with their paperwork you have two options:
1 - ask to terminate the contract and move on to looking for another home (preferabely without an oil tank in ground)
2 - ask the sellers to either pay for the test or share the cost of the test.

Either way, this is a serious matter that you can ask your attorney to terminate the contract for if you are unsatisfied with the test results.

If you are out of attorney review and now at the home inspection contingency part, then do the test, incure the expense but have a sound mind that you are not getting into something much worst. If there is a problem with the soil you have every right to ask the seller to remediate (at his expense) or to walk away from the house and get your deposits back.

I cannot tell you how to act and which is the right thing to do but you probably working with a realtor and represented by an attorney who should guide you through the process with your interest in mind.

Good luck and hope all turns out well.

Karen Abramson

Prudential New Jersey Properties
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 1, 2010
Was the tank decommissioned legally or just "abandoned"? Is there any paperwork filed with the town?
These are very important questions..once you answer this I will be happy to tell you what the next step should be in this kind of a situation.
Web Reference: http://www.njishome.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 1, 2010
PS Have you asked the seller to split the cost with you as an option?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 1, 2010
You just answered your own quesiton - "we want the soil tested before moving forward"..........then, you have to test it. You can't force the seller to do the test.

The seller isn't obligated to do so. They provided the paperwork they have, and the soil testing wasn't required 9 tears ago. - if that doesn't satisfy you, then by all means have it tested. It's expensive, yes, but it is something you should do.

Some people test for lead based paint - most don't...........the seller never does that testing..........your contract allows for you to veryify whatever it is you need to verify during your inspection period. The seller is obligated to disclose pertiment facts about the home...........they did.
Now, it's up to you......if they discover contamination - obviously, you won't buy the hmoe unless it is remediated......at that point, it really is the selle'rs repsonsibility to deal with it.

I don't want to give you legal advice.........I would do the test, and see what the results are. Or.....if you're so not in love with this house, tell the seller you will walk away, and be prepared to do so.

Best wishes..............
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 1, 2010
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