Discovering that the land you purchased to build on is contaminated is bad. However, being the one responsible for the clean-up is worse. Depending on the situation, even though you just bought your home, you might have to foot the bill for the clean-up. To help determine if you do, here is what you need to know.
What Is in Your Purchase Contract?
Before you take any legal action, you need to review your purchase contract. Ideally, before you signed the agreement and the sale was final, you had an environmental assessment conducted. The assessment would have found any problems with the land.
If there were problems noted, your attorney could have ensured that the purchase contract called on the seller to take care of any issues discovered by the assessment. If you discover that the seller did not follow through on their contract, you can take action against the seller.
One option is to attempt to negotiate with the seller to clean up the land. If the seller is unwilling to negotiate, you can file a lawsuit and use your purchase contract to prove that he or she agreed to cover the clean-up.
What If There Were No Environmental Assessment?
In the event that you did not get an environmental assessment prior to purchasing the land, your options to hold the seller responsible could be significantly limited. Whether or not the seller has any responsibility at that point is dependent entirely on whether he or she knew that the land was contaminated.
If the seller was aware of the contamination and failed to disclose it, your state's laws should offer you some protection. Depending on your state, the seller might be expected to pay some or all of the costs associated with the clean-up. You might even be able to back out of the contract.
Proving the seller knew could be difficult though. You would have to either find documentation that shows he or she was aware of the contamination or get the seller to confess to knowing. Your attorney can help you determine what strategy you should use.
If the seller was not aware, you most likely will be responsible for cleaning up the land. The seller might be willing to help with the costs, but legally, he or she is not required to since the seller sold the land in good faith.
To further explore your legal options, consult with an attorney with experience in real estate disputes, such as Jack W Hanemann, P.S.