Here is an actual story I would like to share and I hope you can learn something from it when you come across this kind of situation.
A not-so-welcome news was brought up a day before my buyer’s closing. I was notified that my buyer will be getting a new oil tank because there was a pinhole in the old tank and this needed replacement.
As a protocol, the oil company had to report to DEEP the incident as it believed that an oil spill occurred in the property.
The specific details on how it happened was not disclosed by the listing agent. What he did disclose is that my buyer is getting a new tank which will be installed by so and so company and that an environmental contractor was contacted to have them look at the area. He further said the contractor will be there tonight to remove it.
It sounded like an easy fix.
An Oil Spill and a Tragedy
However, an oil spill should not be taken lightly. I remember a conversation I had with a septic person four years ago while investigating on a property my buyer wanted to purchase in Granby.
The owner of the property ended up killing himself because he was sued for $450K due to oil spill which contaminated the ground and well water in the neighboring properties.
What to Do Next?
Anyway, as expected from myself, I contacted the environmental contractor right away. The contact person could not give me extensive details yet as they just started the investigation. She told me to call the next day… the day we were supposed to close… to get an update.
I called the agent to get permission to check the property out. My buyer wanted to close on that day. He would like to have an amount escrowed for the clean up but I strongly advised him against this course of action.
Upon entering the house, the acrid odor from the oil crept right through my nostrils. The noxious smell emanating from the basement was intolerable. However, we ran quickly into the basement to get a quick assessment of what transpired. Then showed our way out of the house.
Guess who is waiting outside?
After locking the door, an SUV was parked on the driveway. It was a DEEP inspector. I knew because I asked since there was this horizontal light on top of the vehicle’s roof. It was good to know that DEEP was not taking this matter lightly as well.
The inspector mentioned that DEEP will be conjointly investigating the incident with the environmental contractor. And she asked us to remove our cars on the driveway because the excavator trucks are on their way.
So we drove our car out of the premises as fast as we could. Even though the buyer was disappointed that he would not close that day, he had something to be thankful for. It happened prior to him owning the property.
The Updates and Progress Report
Today is the fifth day since the spill. And I just got an update from the listing agent. He said that according to DEEP, there are no health risks either in the basement or on the property. And that there is no requirement from them to clean it up further since there is no health hazard. This is the direction the seller is leaning.
What the listing agent does not know is that I have been in constant contact with the environmental contractor and DEEP from the day the unfortunate incident happened till today. I even have the case number and email address of the DEEP inspector assigned to this property.
The Subtle Interrogation
Contrary to what the agent said, the email I received from the DEEP inspector an hour after I received the agent’s email recommended otherwise. Even the environmental contractor told me that there was a work proposal submitted to the seller for the clean up.
After reading the inspector’s email, I called the agent and asked him who among the sellers was in direct contact with the environmental contractor as there are four listed on the contract.
Furthermore, I asked him if that person got the proposal from the contractor. He said yes but you know they are contractors. They want money that is why they proposed this unnecessary works.
Then I asked him for the name of the DEEP person his seller spoke with. He said I don’t know. I did not ask her about that.
So this is when I gave him my spill. “I do have an email from the DEEP inspector and her recommendation is aligned with the environmental contractor’s work proposal.”
The listing agent in a startled voice, “You have an email from DEEP?”
Yes, I do and I am going to forward this to you. Please do share this information with your seller/sellers as my buyer is not going to proceed with the purchase unless we are assured that this case is closed with the DEEP.
ADVICE to My Fellow Realtors
We are in this business to make money by servicing our clients. Who does not want to close or consummate a transaction? We all do. But there is no short cut to a successful closing. Don’t let the dollar sign let you slip away from your duties imposed by the Code of Ethics.
Moreover, gross negligence will haunt you back. It can ruin your career and bury your source of income.
Disclosure of material fact is not enough. Be truthful with your representation of information. Fact-check is necessary. Don’t rely on just one source especially on grave issues such as oil spill.
Heed the Four Agreements:
1) Don’t take it personally
2) Be impeccable with your words
3) Don’t make assumptions
4) Always do your best
For all your real estate needs excellent representation, please contact this author, Maria Gilda Racelis of Home Buyers Realty.
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