Oil tank leak in crawl space. Where do we go from here?
July 18, 2012 10:14 AM Subscribe
A month from selling our house, and we found out we have an oil tank leak we need to clean up before we leave. Costs could be up to $10,000. Anything we can do?
With our expanding family, we recently decided to sell our current house and buy a larger one, in a better school district. We spend a while getting our house "showing-ready", did a few repairs, a lot of cleaning and painting, etc. Put our house on the market, and it sold within a week! Yay!
The offer we chose was a cash offer, not quite as high as our asking price, but it was enough, and they wanted a decision quickly. They were concerned about an oil tank in our crawlspace, but we'd been assured by the previous owners that the tank had been abated and was not a problem. Neither the real estate agent nor our home inspector when we bought the house made a big deal out of it, so we didn't know it was a problem.
We naively believed that everything would be fine, and told the buyer that we didn't have paperwork to prove it had been abated, but that we'd get it inspected. And given that the buyer wanted a decision within 24 hours, we accepted their offer before we got the tank inspected.
The tank was inspected on Monday, and it was the worse case scenario. There was a leak. A bad one, and given North Carolina state law, we are going to have to clean it up before we move. We asked the inspector to estimate the costs, and he said it could be up to $10,000. Time-wise, it's do-able. The inspector said that they can have everything cleaned up by late-August when we'd planned on being out of the house.
But now we feel ripped off. We decided on this selling price based on thinking that we wouldn't have to deal with the tank. I also didn't realize that if we had it inspected, that we'd necessarily be the ones to have to clean it up. But state law says it can't pass owners without being cleaned up.
I feel like we've been rushed through this process. I felt like maybe if we put our house back on the market, we could maybe wait it out and get a better offer that would cover at least half the cost of the clean-up. But is there even a way for us to back out and break the contract? I know a buyer can, but can a seller? After we'd agreed, we did have another buyer approach our agent about making a competing offer.
I asked our agent about that, but never got a real clear answer about whether or not it was possible for us to back out at this point to try for more money, or if it was even a good idea. I think, if we waited it out more, likely get some more money on the house. But now we have the problem of the oil tank, and people may be more wary to buy a house with this problem, even if we do take care of it ourselves.
Anyways, is there any possible outcome here that's better than us just eating the full cost of the clean-up?
(For what it's worth, we are aware of a program with the state where we get partially reimbursed, but it's uncertain right now if we qualify.)