A home that I have listed has been found to have an oil leak in the basement due to a faulty fuel line from the tank to the furnace. Environmental inspection professionals have been called but have not come out yet to do an assessment. The seller is adamant that we not disclose this to prospective buyers since they plan to clean it up before a closing is scheduled and they don’t want to scare buyers away. What should I do?
Legal Hotline Answer: Pursuant to the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act (Chapter 93A), you have an affirmative duty to disclose any known material defects about a property to prospective buyers. Although the oil contamination issue your seller facing is not an uncommon one, it could adversely affect a prospective purchaser’s decision to buy the home. In fact, the issue is so common that state environmental rules now require all new delivery lines to be encased in a non-metallic protective sleeve when installed.
Your seller is taking the right steps by contacting qualified professionals to evaluate the problem. This does not, however, negate your duty as a real estate professional to disclose the issue.
For more information, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection has put together a great brochure on the issue of heating oil fuel lines. It is available here.