Buying a house with contaminated land. Any advice please

(14 Posts)
hay13e Mon 29-Jun-20 20:56:20

I'm in the process of purchasing my first house. My solicitor has requested the searches, which she said have shown up contaminated land either on the property or within 25 meters, which is from previous land use. She didn't tell me what it was.

I viewed the property again last week and broached the subject with the vendor. The vendor purchased the house 5 years ago and said that their searches had not shown any contaminated land, so had no idea what it was. There is a small car garage adjacent to the property. I made a comment about hoping that the car garage was disposing of used engine oil legally and not pouring it on the land or down the drains!

Since then, I have asked my solicitor what the contamination report said. My solicitor has replied with 'Your search identifies that the property is on or within 25 metres of one or more former industrial land uses, namely a garage (with potential tanks). They use historic ordnance surveys*'.
So, was I correct in thinking the car garage is the culprit? If it was a former garage, like a petrol pump garage with tanks, wouldn't that have shown up on on the vendors search 5 years ago? The car garage has been there way more than 5 years. In addition, the neighbour, 2 doors down, had bought her property 2 years ago, and again, nothing on the searches.

My solicitor is waiting for the vendor's original searches to come through so she can put them to the agency who conducted the search, in the hope they will reconsider their report before having to inform the mortgage lender. My worry is that this contamination has developed within the last 5 years, which will open up a whole new set of problems.

Any advice on what I could do to get more information on where the contamination is coming from? I don't want to back out at this point as I don't feel I have the full facts to make the decision just yet. I've emailed the environment agency to ask for information. Should I contact the local council too?

Any advice welcome. Thank you

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Pipandmum Mon 29-Jun-20 21:00:54

It doesn't mean the land is actually contaminated in the way you think (like a massive spill), just that it's a industry that by its nature contaminates the land. A large housing estate just got scuppered near me because it's near a garage.

hay13e Mon 29-Jun-20 21:07:38

I'm hoping it's something and nowt but I can't understand why my search has thrown it up and not anyone else's. I can only imagine it's either happened recently or the criteria for the searches have changed since the vendors bought it.

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LIZS Mon 29-Jun-20 21:09:14

Could be industry or activity such as waste disposal or mining from way back. There are old maps on National library of Scotland website which might eliminate these.

Cherry321 Mon 29-Jun-20 21:17:08

I used to do these searches for historic landfill around 15 years ago. At that time there were ‘extra questions’ that either had to be specifically asked or cost extra. So it might be that the original solicitor didn’t ask or the buyer didn’t notice in the search results?

If the house is only 5 years old get hold of the committee report for the planning application from the local council.

You also need to establish the type of contamination and whether you will be able to dig in the soil and plant vegetables. I have heard of cases where people were advised not to eat anything grown in the gardens.

Cherry321 Mon 29-Jun-20 21:18:31

In terms of the committee report - the consultation responses from EA and maybe EHO will give you a good idea of any concerns.

hay13e Mon 29-Jun-20 21:38:48

Cherry321 it's a Victorian terraced so was built years ago. The vendor bought it 5 years ago. I've been trying to search online for any clue what it could be but I've come out fruitless.

I know the area would have been industrialised and possibly mined but would that have been pointed out with the vendor's search?, wouldn't it? The vendor has checked her original paperwork and said there's nothing to suggest any contamination was found.

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wowfudge Mon 29-Jun-20 21:47:39

Ask your solicitor to send you the searches report showing the information about contaminated land. She'll do so anyway, but it's worth have a look at what's actually written down.

As for the vendor saying nothing came up when she bought, that's highly unlikely and she's quite possibly forgotten or thinks it's obvious the house is close to a source of potential contamination because there's a garage close by.

Cherry321 Mon 29-Jun-20 21:47:45

Ah sorry, thought the house was newish. Probably the garage then.
Can your solicitor go back to whomever did the search to confirm?

wowfudge Mon 29-Jun-20 21:48:21

Oh and the vendor might not be being truthful as she wants to sell her house to you.

MaggieFS Mon 29-Jun-20 21:54:40

Remember you can't trust the vendor because ultimately it's only in their interest to sell the house.

You can push your solicitor to tell you what's what in plain English and not give up until you are happy you understand the answers because that's what you are paying them for.

hay13e Mon 29-Jun-20 21:54:56

Yes, it does seem odd that it's only on my search but once my solicitor gets the paperwork from the vendor, we'll soon find out.

I will ask my solicitor to send me the report and I'll have a good read.

I'm being quite impatient and just want to know what's going on. I guess I want to know for sure if I'm to look for another house. I'm really hoping I don't have to though. The thought of having to let it go is worrying me.

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SabrinaThwaite Tue 30-Jun-20 09:01:34

You can look at the old maps on line for free here:

I used to write contaminated land reports for large projects, so would suggest looking for clues of any other industrial uses, but given the proximity its most likely that the garage has been flagged (road vehicle fuelling, service and repair - garages and filling stations).

I doubt it’s mining, as that is generally flagged as potential for the presence of underground workings or shafts / adits.

hay13e Tue 30-Jun-20 11:01:48

Thank you Sabrina. Much appreciated. I'll have a look.

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