Suspected contamination when buying land or property

You may think land contamination only affects developers more than individuals. But you need to be aware of the risk if buying a house or commercial premises.

While you are searching for a home or business property, you should speak to a solicitor to investigate if you suspect there is contamination of the land.

There are ways you can find out for yourself about what might lie beneath before instructing your solicitor, if you wish. Sampling and testing of groundwater and soil, however, needs carrying out by professionals, like ATG Group.

Your local council has health and pollution departments – each council uses different names for their teams – who are responsible for monitoring the environment. If you suspect land contamination at a site you are looking at, you should contact the Contaminated Land Officer as they may have records or information about it.

As developers are using more brownfield sites for housing, the chances of buying a home on land once contaminated increases. But we should point out that developers must carry out land remediation, so it will be only in rare cases that prospective purchases are at risk.

Environmental searches

Local councils and land owners have duties under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 regarding contaminated land. Conveyancing solicitors are carrying out environmental searches more frequently to identify contamination. These searches are usually provided by specialist businesses and  vary depending on different requirements. They range from completely factual information to a comprehensive interpretation of the findings.

Searches usually include studies of historic mapping, records about land use and other details that may highlight issues of concerns. A certificate may be issued if the land affected is of minimal risk of contamination. This, however, does not guarantee that contamination is not present at the property.

Is it safe to live on contaminated land?

Any risks associated with living on land that was previously used for industry is low. As we have previously said, new housing on brownfield land must be remediated before development is allowed.

Of course, there are cases when the house or land you are interested in is not part of a development. If that is your situation and you suspect contamination, we would recommend you speaking to your solicitor.

As long as the land is remediated professionally, it will be safe to live on land that was once contaminated. In rare cases, there may be indirect effects to be aware of, such as inhalation of gases or via food grown on the land. Substances can also leach to pollute groundwater, rivers or ponds.

Insurance policies

When buying a residential or commercial land or a property, it is worth considering taking out insurance. There are policies that cover the costs of remediation and ensure that development plans can proceed by addressing and minimising risk should contamination be found. But it is usually better to have the land checked before making a purchase.

When discovering contaminated land, contact us today. We are one of the leading land remediation companies in the UK.

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