Heating Oil Tanks

“The seller does not know of a tank” does not necessarily mean it is not there.  A classic situation is where a buyer looks for an older home and finds one where tank cleanup occurred in compliance with North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) regulations. Buyer is concerned that a Notice of Residual Petroleum (NRP)* is placed on the Deed and decides to look for something else. Buyer finds another older home where no disclosure of a tank is made, and purchases home. The chances of buyer having bought a house and potential liability of an unresolved leaking tank issue are very good (see video illustration).

Be aware of the presence of a heating oil tank if a dwelling is older than the current heating system or heating source provider. Example: if natural gas service (call PSNC) was installed years after the dwelling was built, the chances of the presence or former existence of a home heating oil tank on the property are good and should be a warning sign. Common signs of buried heating oil tanks on a property are fill and vent pipes sticking out of the ground.

Filling a tank in place does not remove one’s liabilities of a leaking tank nor the legal responsibility to disclose. Filling a tank only increases the structural integrity of a tank. Therefore, the financial liabilities associated with a leaking tank are not eliminated when just filling a tank.

It is required to disclose or declare ‘No Representation’ regarding the presence or former existence of a heating oil tank during sale of a residential property as per North Carolina Real Estate Commission (NCREC).

When removing a tank, evidence of a release must be reported (Form UST-61) to authorities within 24 hours according to regulations and cleanup.

Evidence of a release when removing a tank can be a detection of petroleum odors, staining of soil in the excavation and laboratory data to confirm.

The lack of stains or odors on the surface near a tank does not mean anything. To determine a release from a UST, the soil underneath the tank must be investigated.

Buyers Agent’s obligation is to educate a buyer of the liabilities associated with home heating oil tanks. Recommend proper investigation of tanks.

It is important for a buyer to seek a Real Estate Agent with knowledge of the liabilities associated with home heating oil tanks and other liabilities associated with buying real property.


* Notice of Residual Petroleum (NRP) – a document required by NCDEQ regulations on properties that have not been cleaned to unrestricted use standards, but exposure risk is minimal if restrictions are heeded.

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