Thinking of selling your home? Remove your oil tank now! Take it out of the ground, before you list or show your home.
The first thing I suggest is that you conduct a tank scan. I know you probably did this years ago, but equipment is better now and searches cover more land now. In years past, many companies only searched 20′ to 30′ feet from the house. Recently we have found tanks as far as 50′ from the foundation and also old gasoline tanks buried behind or alongside a detached garage. In one house we sold in Short Hills, NJ, a tank was buried and abandoned under the cement floor of the garage, that was added onto the house in the 1950’s!
Here are three reliable companies that will conduct the tank sweep for you in NJ. They will locate any metal underground and either dig, take a soil sample or do an ultra sound to see what is buried. Sometimes there are old lines from a previous tank, or construction debris, (we once found an old cast-iron sink) but it’s better to know up front, than deal with this uncertainty when a buyer has already applied for his mortgage and may not be able to hold his loan commitment for as long as it takes to clean up this mess. (Even if the previous owners told you the tank was removed.)
If you find a tank, get it removed. Don’t dilly dally, get it out before you list your house. The price to remove a tank is usually under $2,000 and its a small price to pay for peace of mind and the ability to deal with other things that are easier to control. For over twenty-five years, under-ground fuel tanks have been an environmental concern in New Jersey. Many homes have not one, but TWO tanks in their front or back yard. Much of the time, they have been leaking, deep into the ground and sometimes into the foundation of the house, the neighbors yard or house and into the ground water. Years ago buyers would accept the information that the tank had been emptied of oil and decommissioned or abandoned in the ground with sand, petro-fill foam, or gravel. The tank removal company got a permit, the town inspected and everyone shook hands and closed escrow. Few attorneys considered it a big deal. Sometimes there was no paperwork because the local fire department came by to seal the tank, and they did not keep records. Some tanks were 250 gallons, others were over 1,000 gallons. Some were buried under the lawn and then there were those under decks, driveways, patios or halfway under the neighbor’s yard or under a huge tree.
If you currently have oil heat, you should get insurance, or consider removing that tank and installing an above ground tank the basement or the garage. Some models like a refrigerator and they do not take up as much floor space as they once did. Talk to the company that provides your heating oil and find out what the options are.
Although not common, we have heard about an entire family room addition that was built over the buried oil tank. There are times when tree roots, water lines, gas lines, sewer lines and sprinkler lines have to be moved in order to pull the tank out of the ground. Last year one of our sellers went to pull a tank out, only to find that it was halfway under her neighbor’s yard! Some townships require that tanks be removed; other communities have no such requirement, so why bother?
The fact is, that today, most New Jersey attorneys and most mortgage companies, will insist that the tank be removed with a clean report from the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) known as an NFA letter. NFA stands for No Further Action. If a tank comes out of the ground without any contamination (leakage) there is no need for this letter. The company hired, calls the building inspector, the site is inspected and the matter is closed. If on the other hand, the tank has holes, with signs of spilled oil, the DEP is notified, soil samples are taken, and then the clean up begins. First soil samples are tested and measured and then results of those tests determine the degree of contamination. Depending on the parts of oil per soil, the clean up and NFA letter can take months; severely stalling the closing process.
For more information in NJ – which is subject to change; read this guide from NJDEP:
My advice: Before your sell your home, get a complete property metal scan and if you find a tank, REMOVE IT IMMEDIATELY. Even if your seller provided you with a piece of paper that said there is no tank; or if a previous tank was removed. Get your own scan of the entire property and you should not have any unexpected surprises later.
I personally know of over ten situations where the sellers paid for a scan, only to find a tank a year or two later; sometimes by the exact same company who did the scan and signed off on a tank-free yard. If you want referrals for companies that conduct tank scans, tank removals and remediation, please give me a call at 201-417-1600 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org