Hangout with Paul Toffoli
Answering questions about buried residential oil tanks - what dangerous about it? How do you know? What does it cost to fix?
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here talking with Paul Toffoli, one of the best realtors in Vancouver. He’s been voted that for the last four or five years by his customers, ‘Top Realtor in Vancouver’. You can reach Paul at toffoli.ca. How’re you doing today, Paul?
Paul: I’m great Mark.
Mark: So, today, I guess we’re going to talk about oil tanks. So what’s so dangerous about an oil tank buried in your yard?
Paul: So, you would think there would be nothing really dangerous about an oil tank buried in your yard; however, there is a risk of environmental contamination. What that means to the normal homeowner is there’s a risk of a cost. In the last sort of ten, fifteen years provincial regulations have come into effect that make it a legal requirement under the BC Fire Code and under the Environmental Protection Regulation that any oil tank that is found is required to be removed prior to the sale of the property. So, you can see that if you’re buying a property it would be important to discover whether or not there’s an oil tank on the property before you buy so that you’re not taking on the responsibility of removing it and if you’re a seller, you don’t want to have that oil tank be a surprise when you’ve got the accepted offer and you’ve already negotiated all the terms and then all of a sudden the buyer comes to you and says, hey there’s an oil tank on your property. I’m not going to go through with this deal or you have to remove it and what are the risks financially? Well, best case scenario, you’re talking five to six thousand dollars if they find no contamination. Worst case scenario, the worst one I’ve ever heard of and this is sort of through the grape vine and through building inspectors I’ve spoken with, it was over three hundred thousand dollars and that was in West Vancouver where oil had, underground gone through three or four different properties on a steep slope. So the risks are huge from a financial perspective and you know, your average costs, I’ve personally had clients involved on the buying side where they were perspective buyers and they discovered oil tanks on the inspection and had requested the seller to remove and what heard back from the seller when it was all done and had all the environmental testing done and it was a clean property, you know, it was upwards of fifty thousand dollars just on a basic one. So it’s a huge financial risk.
Mark: So, how do you with somebody buying of a piece of property, how do they find an oil tank on that potential purchase.
Paul: Sure. So what we do, we do two things to protect our clients. First is in the offer and this is on single family homes or stand-alone properties, we’re not dealing with strata’s and so forth in this situation, but the first thing we do is, we put a clause in the offer that clarifies that any oil tank found will be removed at the expense of the seller and that they will be responsible for any environmental clean-up, that’s number one. Number two, as part of the inspection, and we also have a subject to inspection, and as part of the inspection process we have an oil tank specialist come in. They bring in a piece of equipment usually a very accurate metal detector and they will scan the property with the metal detector, they can also go to city records and see if any oil tanks have been removed previously or if there’s any record of oil tanks and finally, if you know say, there’s a big concrete slab in the back yard or something like that, there is ground penetrating radar that can be brought in. Usually the scan just with a metal detector is a nominal fee; some of the contractors will do it for free because they are hoping to find an oil tank that then they can get a chance to remove. The ground penetrating radar, I think the last we had a client to it was around a four hundred dollar cost. That’s probably the most certain way because you can see what’s underneath the ground.
Mark: So, is this a fairly common thing in Vancouver?
Paul: It’s very common, you know, so many of the homes in Vancouver were built prior to 1960 or 1965 when natural gas started to be sort of the norm. So what we saw, you know, first of all it was coal in the early 1900’s and then those got converted to oil tanks. They buried all those oil tanks in the early days and then what would often happen is when that oil tank reached the end of its life they wouldn’t remove it , they may fill it with sand or maybe decommission it in another way or just leave it and then they would put an above ground oil tank in place because it was cheaper and easier to put an above ground one in and so even where sometimes there’d been an above ground one if there was no problem there may be an older below ground one that would be discovered. So, anything up to homes built probably in the sixties or seventies, there’s a risk of an oil tank and even then it’s always a good idea to have it scanned and what I tell my selling clients, my listing clients is let’s get it pre scanned as part of our pre listing, due diligence as part of our pre listing work that we do, we have someone come in, scan it, if there is no oil tank we get a certificate stating there’s no oil tank. We can give that to any potential buyers. It puts their mind at ease. They’re not as concerned about it, so it opens the door for more buyers and if there is an oil tank you can deal with it before it lists, before you have that potential offer coming in and it getting messed up by an oil tank being there.
Mark: So, what else is there to be aware of around oil tanks?
Paul: I think those are the main factors, just that it is the law that sellers are responsible to remove them and that there’s a huge financial risk and they’re just best to deal with it ahead of time and of course it is always possible that an oil tank has been removed and there may be contamination that hasn’t been dealt with but that’s a lot harder to find and it usually doesn’t come to the surface or come into play but there are also companies out there that will take soil samples and will test to see if there’s any hydrocarbon residue in the soil and that is actually part of the process when you have a licensed contractor come into remove an oil tank they are required by the bylaws to not only remove the tank but to take soil samples surrounding the tank by a qualified environmental testing company. Those go into a lab, they test them and they see if those levels of contamination are below or above what would be required by the Environmental Protection Act. So, that’s pretty much an oil tank in a nutshell. It’s something to be concerned about for both buyers and sellers and you’re better off to deal with earlier in the process rather than later.
Mark: So, Paul, I guess if people want to get in touch with you to list or buy a home they can reach you at your website at toffoli.ca – toffoli.ca or they can give you a call 604-787-6963 if you want the best Real Estate Agent in Vancouver helping you. This is the guy. Thanks a lot Paul
Paul: Thank you Mark.