Our personal passion/affliction is old Portland homes. We’ve got four of them in our portfolio. We sold one this year and used a 1031 Exchange to purchase two more. Part of our due diligence on both included a search on PortlandMaps.com to see if there were records of old oil tanks on record. Both show underground oil tanks so the red flag is thrown. That part takes a matter of seconds.
The Department of Environmental Quality oversees the recording of the decommissioning of oil tanks. There is lots of information on oil tanks on their website. The DEQ is working on setting up an online database but is not available yet. It makes it especially important for home owners to keep (and be able to find) the official record of a tank being decommissioned. The DEQ can verify each property but it has to be done on a case by case basis.
Portlandmaps doesn’t have all the records either. If they don’t have a record of a tank, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one there. Even back then, homeowners did things without permits! When we sell old homes, we look for the telltale signs that there may have been a tank. These include fill pipes and lines or holes in the foundation. The home inspector is going to look too and may recommend a tank locate. There are companies specifically equipped and trained to locate tanks. If they find evidence of one, they then test the soil and if contamination is found, report it to DEQ. Sellers almost invariably end up paying for the repair.
If you don’t know about the problem, you inherit the problem. Unless it could be proved the seller knew there was a tank and didn’t disclose it, there is probably very little chance that there would be any recourse.