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Environmental Property Issues
What you see, is not always what you get. It is very important that you be aware of, and research, any environmental issues, concerns, or liabilities present on the property you purchase and the areas surrounding. Items to look for include:
- Known contaminated properties in the area
- Cases of lead or radon poisoning
- Registered underground tanks
- Property owners who have been fined by the government for failing to meet environmental safety standards
To conduct this investigation search the area on the Internet, ask your agent for information, and contact the regional or municipal relevant environmental or government agency. Environmental information should be available to the public.
Be Aware of Potential Health Hazards
When buying, selling, or simply just owning and living in a home it is a good idea to be aware of any potential health hazards within the home or surrounding area. Lead poisoning can be a serious, and often overlooked, issue. As a general rule, houses or buildings constructed prior to 1978 are likely to contain lead-base paint and/or plumbing piping containing lead. Lead may also be present in the environment in areas overtly exposed to vehicle emissions.
Instances of lead exposure are very difficult to pinpoint, making it harder to control and prevent. The Canadian government is aware of the issue and has put some guidelines in place to protect those buying homes. Law requires that anyone selling a home known to present lead-based paint hazards must disclose this information to all interested buyers. The contract of sale on these properties must include the government form regarding lead-based paint and give the buyer up to 10 days to check for any hazards associated with the presence of lead. This buyer may then stipulate any actions that must be taken before the sale will be complete.
Overlooked lead hazards can cause severe, adverse health effects. Lead poisoning has been known to cause brain damage and nervous system problems in children, and can result in both behavioral and learning disabilities, retarded growth and hearing problems. In adults, health problems can range from reproductive issues to high blood pressure and nerve disorders,as well as digestive issues, muscle and joint pain, and hindered brain functions such as memory and concentration.
Radon is another naturally occurring health hazard that may be present in your home or on your property without your knowledge. Radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas that is produced when small amounts of uranium and radium in soil and rocks decay. Radon is naturally released in low concentrations, but inside your home, the gas can become more concentrated due to lack of ventilation. The gas can decay further into smaller particles which can be inhaled into the lungs and cause damage to the cells, eventually leading to lung cancer.
If radon is a concern for you as a homeowner, have your home tested or ask the seller for their radon test results. Home sellers should test for radon and take the appropriate action(s) to reduce radon levels on the property, if necessary, before making the sale. There are various radon testing devices available:
- Passive Devices– these devices are exposed to the air in the home for a certain length of time and sent to a lab for analysis. Passive devices can include charcoal canisters, alpha track detectors and charcoal liquid scintillation.
- Active Devices - these devices work constantly to measure and record the radon levels in the home over short or long periods of time. Longer test periods are generally more accurate. Active devices can include continuous radon monitors and continuous working level monitors, and should also only be used by trained professionals.
Underground Heating Oil Tanks
If a property contains an underground heating oil tank, you should be aware of some potential hazards. If they leak, these tanks can cause many environmental issues including contamination of soil and ground water. Leaks can be caused by any number of impetuses, including rust or sparked utility lines.
As a potential buyer, have the tank inspected to ensure it is structurally sound. You can opt to have the tank shut off and contained and another tank installed in the basement. This can be written in the sales contract as a condition of sale.
As the property seller, have your lawyer ensure that the description and condition of the underground heating oil tank is accurate and up-to-date. If you agree to the buyer's conditions concerning the tank, make sure the sales contract reflects this transaction accurately.