disclosure required only if nearby
Real Estate Adviser,
Does an appraiser have the responsibility to list the fact that
a property he's evaluating is just four miles from a Superfund site?
Does the seller have to disclose that? And wouldn't that affect
the value of the property?
Great questions. First, let's clarify what a
Superfund site is. It's a property that has been deemed by the Environmental
Protection Agency, or EPA, to contain hazardous waste that has been
designated for cleanup. In the process, the EPA looks to the parties
responsible for the contamination to reimburse government cleanup
costs -- if they can find them -- though funding and enforcement
have softened somewhat in recent years.
You are not alone, Josie. About 65 million people
-- or approximately one in four Americans -- live within four miles
of a Superfund site, according to the EPA. What's more, there are
in excess of a half-million suspected or known hazardous waste sites
across the country. The worst offenders -- about 1,300 locales --
are considered federal Superfund sites. About 11 million people,
including more than 3 million children, live within a mile of these.
As for your appraiser-disclosure question, appraisers
in most states are not obliged to venture much beyond property boundaries
in their findings, much less four miles away. That's one of several
reasons that prospective homeowners and landowners these days are
hiring environmental-inspection firms which, for a few hundred bucks
or so, will produce a report in one or two business days that will
analyze your targeted property and list nearby toxic sites.
Some real estate attorneys suggest that property buyers
put a clause in their sales contract that will allow them to walk
away from a deal if an environmental problem is found.
As for seller disclosure, the laws vary from state
to state. Most do require that sellers and (or) real estate agents
disclose on-site or site-adjacent environmental issues. But a problem
several miles away is not in their realm of responsibility.
Some states, such as California, have "right-to-know"
laws requiring disclosure of any nearby environmental problem when
a home is sold.
Certainly, a federal Superfund site in your neighborhood
could very well affect property values. But one that is four miles
away probably won't, unless it falls within a federally acknowledged
"plume of contamination." Smaller polluted sites could
also affect property values, but in a shorter radius.
To see where your area Superfund project stands, visit
the comprehensive environmental response, compensation and liability
information system, or CERCLIS, site.
Other excellent resources include BeSafe.net
Happy (and healthy) homing.
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