Oil Tanks not so slick…

Oil Tanks. Do they have to be removed?

After searching high and low, at last you have found the perfect property! Perhaps it’s an old heritage house with multiple units and it is great for investment; or, it is a charming home on a tree lined street, all newly renovated and is perfect for a new young family. One of the most important things you need to know about the property is…Does it have an oil tank?

Any home built prior to 1962 could have a tank! The owners may have changed many times since the home was initially built so the current owners may or may not know about an oil tank. The British Columbia Fire Code governs the removal of abandoned underground oil tanks. The B.C. Fire Code and Environmental Management Act require not only the removal of the out-of-use oil tank but an environmental assessment on the surrounding immediate area for soil contamination and other damage. The rules on this vary by municipality, so check with your municipality to see what is required in your area.

In the province of British Columbia, all oil tanks must be removed (and remediation done if required) at the expense of the owner/seller at the time of a Real Estate Purchase/Sale. In fact, any tank that has been out of use for a period of two years or greater should be removed. So how can you find out if there is one?

In Vancouver, you can call the Fire Prevention Office at (604) 873-7593, and ask the Fire Inspector to check the City records, to see if a tank removal permit was taken out. As well, a further check can be made to see if a letter from a contractor was submitted to the City, indicating that no tank was found on site. I recommend to my clients to find out for themselves and hire a professional to do a scan of the property. This one little step could save you from a very large headache in the future. If a tank is found a reputable tank removal company will be able to assist in the process of removing the tank, filing reports and acquiring permits with the city and environmental regulators.

Here are some Tips for Buyers and Sellers regarding Oil Tanks:

For Buyers:

1. Make sure you have a good team that is knowledgeable and can help protect you with safeguards. For more on this check out Lets Make a Deal – The property purchasing process.

2. When buying an older home it is always advisable to get a professional to do a property inspection. They may be able to help identify areas where the oil tank was/is located. See more on that topic.

3. If the home was built pre-1962, make sure the “oil tank” clauses are written in your purchasing contract and pay for a professional to scan the property, prior to the subject removal date.

4. As a buyer, you want disclosures to be made about the property (and if an oil tank exists or not) included as part of The Contract of Purchase and Sale.

For Sellers:

1. If you are a selling a property with a tank, have it removed before listing your property for sale! This will remove all of the questions and Red Flags a potential buyer may have regarding the issue and will give the buyer piece of mind knowing it is gone. Think like a buyer. They are likely going to purchase a property with the least amount of hassle.

2. If you do have a tank and are selling your property, make sure you do disclose this information up front. This will save you from a big legal hassle later that could cost more!

3 thoughts on “Oil Tanks not so slick…

  1. From your experience. If the buyer knows there is an oil tank and it is disclosed by the seller (of course) what do the lawyers say ? can the sale still go through with out it being removed?
    many thanks

    1. Hi Wanda, that is a great question but I am sorry it is above my pay grade.

      Here is the quick answer: The lawyers job is to advise and protect their client. So generally they advise against clients taking on unknown risk.

      Here is my longer answer:

      I don’t know the full story here about the disclosure or the contract that was written, so I can only talk to the by-laws and can’t comment specifically on your case. (If you want to know what lawyers say… talk to lawyers.) Please let it be known and stated here that I am not a lawyer and in law there isn’t always black and white. This falls very much in the grey area because you have two sides to the equation that both want their side to be correct.

      Here is my blog response that holds no legal weight what so ever. Caveat Emptor is Latin for “Let the buyer beware.” The rules on oil tanks can change city to city and province to province. In Vancouver, the bylaw simply states that a know oil tank that is no long in use must to be removed within two years. So from a city perspective yes technically a buyer could proceed. (There is no bylaw for a sale being blocked or causing some action to be required it there is an oil the tank and to have it removed.) Keep in mind as a buyer, as soon as you sign the documents and take ownership of the property, you take on all the properties risk and liability. So as the buyer you generally do not want to take on the responsibility of removing the tank (within the next 2 years). The concern here is that if there is contamination from the tank leaking that will have to be remediated. So whom ever the “owner” is, it will have to address in the next two years regardless. So a buyer’s lawyer looking to protect their client would very likely recommend getting the seller to remediate the tank before they go ahead.

      This again is where I say get legal advise because here is more grey to add to the equation… From the selling side, if the seller has know about the tank for more than 2 years why was it not already removed, in accordance to the bylaw? (Remember, ignorance of the law is not an excuse…) It could be argued by the buyer that it should have been removed according to the bylaw already long ago by the seller.

      Clear as mud?? If you would like to talk to an Oil Tank Specialist I would suggest talking with MT Enviro Tank they have a great background not just in the removal of tanks but may have other solutions for dealing with contamination beyond just removing the soil. Xavier is a partner and he can be reached at 778-859-4443. When I talked with him he did indicate that as part of the Environmental Act there are Provincial laws that do require sellers to remove tanks and remediate the land so I would suggest getting in touch with him for further information.

      I hope this helps. As I said, its not really appropriate for me to comment on what lawyers say and not knowing all that facts it’s not easy to give you a response so all I can say is, “Good luck with you situations I hope it works out for you”.

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