Purchasing a piece of property for commercial use may be an exciting step in the establishment or expansion of your business. You have many factors to consider. The size of the property, its location and zoning issues are all items to consider before you sign a purchase agreement.
One thing you may not realize is that many New Jersey commercial properties have histories that are not so pristine. In fact, it has only been recently that environmental law has curbed some of the practices for using, storing and disposing of hazardous materials a business might use. For this reason, you will want to take every precaution to exam a property you may purchase to ensure it is not contaminated. Once you purchase a property with environmental risks, you may become responsible for a very expensive cleanup.
What you don't see may hurt you
If you discover an environmental contamination on a piece of property you own, you may have no choice put to pay for expensive remediation, especially if the contamination is affecting ground water or neighboring properties.
For example, property that was previously the site of a gasoline station or a commercial building that used oil heat may have underground storage tanks. Even modern storage systems, with monitors and leak detectors, do not guarantee the elimination of all leaks. However, older tanks tend to corrode and allow the contents to leak into the ground. Underground tanks are not the only hazards you should be aware of when looking to purchase commercial property. Any of the following may create an environmental issue you will have to deal with:
- Previous owners of an auto repair shop may have spilled or improperly disposed of motor oil, coolant, auto paint and other chemicals.
- Before the government put strict regulations in place, industrial facilities disposed of chemical waste in pits and lagoons on their properties.
- Some industries used drywells or leach fields into which they dumped or flushed waste chemicals.
- Even today, properties that house dry cleaners are notorious for contamination with perchloroethylene and other volatile organic compounds.
If you end up with a property that you learn has environmental contamination, you may be facing a complex, lengthy and expensive process of mitigation. To avoid this, it is worth it to seek the counsel of a legal advisor who has experience in contaminated real estate. However, if you have already completed the purchase, you can reach out for advice about your options for limiting your liability.