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Clean Up Your Act!

Originally Posted: December 06, 2011

John A. Viteritti

Be careful that existing or potential environmental hazards do not interfere with the purchase or sale of a property, potentially costing everyone involved a great deal of money. (Courtesy Photo: themillerrealtygroup.com)

Southampton - Existing and potential environmentally hazardous conditions are a matter of great concern to buyers, sellers, lenders, and insurers of real property.

The Federal Safe Drinking Water Act requires public water suppliers to periodically test drinking water for contamination.

The Departments of Health must approve the installation of septic systems.

Those who treat for termite infestation must be licensed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Testing and asbestos removal can be performed only by contractors approved by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency or DEC.

Federal Lead Disclosure laws apply to residential buildings constructed before 1978 for sale or rental.

New York State's Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) requires the submission of an environmental impact statement for any activity where ever environmental concerns may be present.

The Federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) imposes responsibility on the property owner for contamination and on the purchaser for the performance of due diligence.

The federal government's program, Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUST) governs installation, maintenance, monitoring, and failure of underground storage tanks.

Article 12-A of the New York State Real Property Law requires owners to disclose to buyers that a property is located in an agricultural district.

Among these environmental concerns, those most familiar to sellers and buyers of single-family residential properties are lead, mold, asbestos, well water, septic systems, and buried fuel tanks.

Mold is a result of moist environments. Long Island by definition is surrounded by water. The East End is noted for its access to the ocean, creeks, bays, and other bodies of water. In fact, it's a feature that renders it desirable to purchasers.

Asbestos is typically found in older homes. It is least hazardous when left alone.

Lead has not been permitted in the manufacture of paint since 1978. Federal law requires disclosure. New York City law requires disclosure and treatment.

Well water can be tested by health authorities or private laboratories.

Buried fuel tanks pose a particular problem for sellers and buyers of real estate. An appraiser must allow for the fact that the fuel tank is buried and adjust the appraisal accordingly. It is not uncommon for lenders to require either removal or abandonment of a buried fuel tank. If there is any evidence of leakage the fuel tank must be removed and all affected properties cleaned up at the expense of the property owner whose tank is leaking. Insurance carriers will also protect its interests when insuring a property that has a buried fuel tank.

All of these issues should be taken into consideration before offering the property for sale. A seller is responsible for certain disclosures to the buyer. A buyer is responsible for performing its due diligence. The real estate licensee has responsibilities for disclosure whether representing the seller or buyer.

Legal counsel and inspection of the property by competent professionals can prevent serious and costly mistakes.

Editor's Note: John will be teaching a 22.5 hours Real Estate Continuing Education classes at Long Island University in Riverhead on December 12, December 14, and December 16. For information and registration contact Rosemary Malone at 631-287-8334 or by email at rosemary.malone@liu.edu.

John is a St. John's University graduate, licensed Real Estate broker, lecturer, teaches real estate license classes at LIU, NYU, and Cook Maran Real Estate School, and is a well-respected consultant to the real estate industry. www.johnaviteritti.com

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