how can I know if a house I see listed has an in ground oil tank?

Asked by Erikakalil, New York, NY Fri May 24, 2013

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Christopher…, Agent, Tarrytown, NY
Tue Jan 28, 2014
Contact the listing agent if the listing doesn't mention it. You will have to get it tested and insured when purchasing.

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Harriet Lewis, Agent, closter, NJ
Tue Jan 28, 2014
If a house has a known underground oil tank it should be disclosed by the Seller. Your inspector may be able to find traces of an underground oil tank otherwise if properly investigated, but it is not always easy or obvious. You can also have sweeps done of the property. I have sold several homes with known or active oil tanks lately so am very familiar with the process. Please feel free to contact me for any further information. As I am a very experienced real estate agent, I would be happy to work with you. Thanks.

Harriet Lewis, Realtor (201)707-5640(Cell)
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Raymond Whit…, Agent, Mesa, AZ
Sun Jan 5, 2014
We used to have the same problems in Reno, NV, and it is buyers beware and it really is tough for a buyers agent because there were a lot of claims against buyers agents that they should have known or found out about the tanks. Over many years I have found that most things can be solved through persistence and hard work. Sometimes though, even the most diligent research still doesn't produce the right answer. It helps when it is easily proved that due diligence was exercised and efforts taken to reveal any issues regarding underground oil tanks.
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Jay Shapiro, Agent, Tenafly, NJ
Thu May 30, 2013
Hi, Erik,

If you're particularly interested in this house, and USTs (Underground Storage Tank) are a concern of yours, this particular house has gas fuel and steam heat.

For good or for ill, the fuel source is not listed under the features (as you know) and thus you'd have to either contact the broker [(good marketing -- less (information) is more (responses)] or, if you're working with a broker, have him or her find out for you.

With that being said, however, there's no guarantee from that information that there was never a UST on the premises. There also might have been an above ground oil tank in the basement. One could ask to see the Seller Property Disclosure and/or if you move forward have your attorney include a rider in the contract that requires the seller to disclose and/or represent (legal term) that there has never been a UST on the premises.

If you want to pursue it even further on your own due diligence, you can check with the local buidling department to see if permits were ever issued to properly decommission an oil tank on those grounds. You could also check with the local utility company to see how long gas has been the fuel source in the house. If there's a discrepancy between the year the house was built and the installation of gas, it might be a clue that oil might have been a fuel source. On the other hand, depending upon how old the house is, the fuel source might have been coal.

If you're represented by a good attorney, I'm sure that he/she will have experience in these matters to protect your interests.

Best regards,

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Maria FORSBE…, Agent, Hackensack, NJ
Sat May 25, 2013
Yes this is unfortunate but it is "buyer be aware" and the truth is that this is why there are methods in place to detect this since no one can say for sure that there is no tank unless they had it tested themselves and only until recently this has become an issue and therefore it is possible that the home owner is unaware of such fact unless they have had this same issue and if they lived on property for more that 15-20 years there were no rules as to tank removal or problems with abandonment, also town records are vague if you go back more than 10 years. When a Realtor takes a listing he/she usually gets the information from seller unless they have other information and we do have to disclose everything this is why listings have a disclosure but this is about an underground tank that can't be always detected unless there is a pipe sticking up somewhere on the propety or other evidence to rise a red flag. But looks like you have become an informed buyer and learnt through experience that it is worth while taking time to look into this issue and properly do your own due diligence. There was an incentive by the State of NJ to give homeowners a credit for up to $ 2500 if the removed tank in 2008-2009 but then the state ran out of money for this within a year. Hopefully soon they can come up with a similar program.
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Erikakalil, Home Buyer, New York, NY
Sat May 25, 2013
Thank you Barbara, yes I am working with an agent and have asked her to only show me houses without oil tanks in the yard moving forward. Just wish there were more incentives for homeowners to remove their tanks before listing and that there were laws for them to disclose the issue if they didn't. I was completely unaware of the liability involved and I'm glad I am better informed now.
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Barbara Ostr…, Agent, Closter, NJ
Sat May 25, 2013
The house you asked about was just listed in Tenafly, and on the NJMLS listing, it says there is gas heat. It is also a cape cod, and typically, most capes were not built with oil heat. If you are already working with a buyers' agent, ask him/her to call the listing agent to double-check or to get a copy of the sellers' disclosure.

If you are not yet working with a buyers' agent, I am very familiar with Tenafly and surrounding communities as a veteran realtor with nearly 30 years of experience, and would be happy to show you this home and any others as I assist you in your real estate search! Give me a call!

Barbara Ostroth
Coldwell Banker Residential RE
201-262-6600 office
201-965-3105 cell
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Erikakalil, Home Buyer, New York, NY
Sat May 25, 2013
Thank you all for the posts! I am finding that most owners and agents will omit the presence of oil tank from their listings and buyers have to do their own research before placing an offer. I wish there were laws to enforce disclosure. I had an accepted offer on a 1940's house and the contract was under attorney's review when I learned the house had a decommissioned tank. Both owner and agent claim they didn't know of the issue and proper decommissioning documentation was not available. I walked away from the deal, but I foresee this being a problem with most houses I am looking since they are all old houses. Just learned that my 2nd choice has an buried tank too. So sad. Owner refuse to remove tank so I guess he is looking to catch an uneducated buyer...
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Chris Gubb, Agent, Ridgewood, NJ
Sat May 25, 2013
In my area this Cape style home was generally built in the 1940's post WWII. Many had above ground tanks located in the basement. You can check with the town to see if permits were taken out for removal and or decommissioning AND you can obtain records of original heating selection AND you can get feedback from your inspector to see if he sees any signs of the oil feed entry.
None of these findings are really a guaranteeing. Suppose the home originally had gas but owner along the way installed oil, suppose the tank was removed without a permit by "Uncle Joe", suppose the tank was decommissioned but the soil was never tested....not a past requirement .

Do an Underground storage tank scan.

Looks similar to those metal detector you see people use on the beach to find coins and jewelry. About $300. You'll know for sure in minutes. Better safe than sorry for if you do discover the tank when you go to sell it will be very likely you'll need to remove it [approx $3,000] and worse contaminated soil will be your responsibility to remove. very unknown cost.

Good luck,
Chris Gubb
Keller Williams Ridgewood
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Mary Petti, Agent, Edison, NJ
Sat May 25, 2013
After asking the listing agent for some info from the seller if the listing itself doesn't mention it , and/or if its not in a seller disclosure, AND, if you decide to make an offer, You check with the town to see if there was ever a permit issued for removal of one. If no permit was issued and you still suspect there was an in ground tank you pay for a company to perform a tank sweep.
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Maria FORSBE…, Agent, Hackensack, NJ
Fri May 24, 2013
If the listing does not mention it you can ask your agent or the listing agent for additional information on the tank, like if they know of any tank underground, if the home owner has previously encountered this problem when they purchased the home. Now if the house has evidence of a tank or the inspector sees anything that suggest the house had an underground thank at some point he usually will advise it in his report and the there is a company that specifically searches for the tank on the property with a detector. Also municipalities may have a record of a tank removal in the past. So there is some work to do and it is very important these days to make sure you do not get stuck with one on the property ! Good luck!
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