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09-11-2012, 11:32 AM #1
Oil Tank/Line Issue (longish -- sorry!)
I was hoping I could get some expert opinions on an oil line issue that is about to blow up a house purchase in Connecticut. We are not experts on this at all (as, it has become clear, our realtor and lawyer are not), and so we aren't sure whether we are just doing the right thing or walking away from a house over a relatively small matter.
As succinctly as I can manage in the little time I have before my next meeting, the issue is as follows:
House is heated with oil; fairly ancient tank (no gauge, beginning to rust, oil inspector says it is "original tank") is in garage at least 50 feet (probably a bit more) from house; line (or lines) for oil run under backyard to house and oil boiler. On advice of home inspector, boiler inspector, and friends who have gone through similar transactions in the area, we requested that new oil tank be installed next to house, and old line ripped up, so we can determine that there hasn't been contamination. They have agreed to install new oil tank, but are refusing to pull up lines.
Our issue is, how can we ascertain whether there have been any leaks around this obviously original line? We have suggested soil samples (and been told that would risk rupturing lines); we have suggested pressure test (and been told this won't be accurate because line doesn't run out of top of tank); we have suggested blowing out lines and capping and ripping them up (and have been told that the oil company says they will not do this because it will create a risk where none exists); etc. etc. We were also told that the oil company (!) says "as long as fuel is running to the furnace there is no leak." As you can guess, we are not confident in the quality of this information. We don't want to be overly cynical, but I don't think it would be a great leap to suggest that the sellers are not particularly interested in pursuing our inquiries about oil contamination.
The bottom line is that we have no way of knowing if there has been any oil contamination, and obviously the sellers don't want to find out if there has been. So it appears they will walk away, move the tank, and thus profit from the exercise in that the next potential buyer will likely not know there is a line under the yard. Expensive lesson for us, of course ($1500 in inspection costs). I know, poor us, woe is the life of the poor buyer. But it seems like this sort of thing is pretty much focused on disclosure avoidance -- if they don't look for a leak, they won't find out, and don't have to disclose it to potential buyers.
I just wish we knew enough about oil lines and tanks to have a sense of whether we are making too much of this, or not. But a friend had a $30k cleanup from a line that leaked "even though it was running fuel to the boiler."
Any thoughts? Do people really buy houses with sixty feet of underground oil lines connected to ancient boiler tanks without doing tests?
09-11-2012, 01:07 PM #2
09-11-2012, 01:32 PM #3
Re: Oil Tank/Line Issue (longish -- sorry!)
- a) Give you $30k at closing for the possible leaking oil lines under the ground. Then YOU MUST either immediately have the lines removed or set that $30k aside to give to the buyer when you sell.
- b) Pull up the buried lines and have the soil tested.
- c) They can find another buyer who is willing to risk $30k or so on whether or not those buried oil lines were leaking.
YOU have to be firm and willing to walk away if they hesitate.
When you give them those choices, be there, tell the seller that they have 10 minutes to decide, and if they decide after you walk out the door, they are too late.
The reason for you to be there is all visual - you are there ... 10 minutes later you are walking toward the door ... 12 minutes later you are gone ...
When they actually see you walking to, and opening, the front door to leave, they KNOW the sale is either dead right then OR they call out your name and say okay.
But you have to be there to make it work.