Sellers’ Advisory Part 2: Oil Tanks, etc.

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Underground Oil Storage Tanks

Sellers should be aware of potential problems associated with underground oil storage tanks.  Such tanks can cause serious problems if they have leaked oil.  Underground oil tank leaks can create serious potential liability for sellers even if they do not know of the leak.  Oil storage tanks, including home heating oil tanks, are closely regulated in Oregon.  An explanation of Oregon laws concerning home heating oil tanks can be found at:

A seller who knows or suspects that property has an underground storage tank should take appropriate steps to protect his own interests, including seeking information from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and, if necessary, consulting with an environmental hazards specialist or attorney.  SELLERS ARE ADVISED TO HIRE APPROPRIATELY TRAINED ENVIRONMENTAL PROFESSIONALS TO INSPECT THE PROPERTY IF AN UNDERGROUD OIL STORAGE TANK IS FOUND OR SUSPECTED.

Oil storage tank inspection, decommissioning and cleanup requires a special license from DEQ.  A list of licensed providers can be found at   Inspection, decommissioning and cleanup of oil tanks can take time.  Sellers who are aware of the existence of a tank should, therefore, begin the process early to avoid transaction delays. Real estate licensees are not trained or licensed to provide advice or services regarding underground oil storage tanks, but can assist the seller in finding the proper professionals.

Environmental Hazards

Environmental hazards include everything from expansive soils to landslides to forest fires, tsunamis, floods and earthquakes.  Environmental hazards can also include indoor air quality (e.g., radon or carbon monoxide) and hazardous materials, like asbestos.  Environmental hazards known to the seller must be disclosed to all buyers.  Sellers in doubt about such hazards should check with the county in which the property is located.  Oregon counties can be located at: .

Wildfire is a concern in some areas of Oregon.  Information about the risk of wildfire is available from the Oregon Department of Forestry at:  Some homeowners are subject to special rules under the State’s “Forestland-Urban Interface Classification.”   Owners of property within the classification should complete a “Property Evaluation and Self-Certification” to avoid potential future liability.  Forestland-Urban Interface status must be disclosed on the Seller’s Property Disclosure form.  Information about the Forestland-Urban Interface and on the evaluation and certification program is available at:   Real estate licensees do not have the expertise to advise homeowners on fire protection requirements but can often direct owners to the appropriate professionals

If flood status is an issue because of insurance restrictions, claims or past history, the seller should bring the matter to the attention of their agent and be prepared to make the appropriate disclosure to buyers. Flood plain maps and information are available at:  Real estate licensees do not have the expertise to assess flood potential but can often direct sellers to the appropriate local authorities.

If environmental issues have been a problem in the area, or the seller has any notice of potential problem with air quality, ground or water contamination or other problems with the area or property, the seller should bring the matter to the attention of their agent and carefully consider disclosure obligations to potential buyers.  If in doubt about potential hazards, the seller should visit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website at:

Information about specific contaminated sites that have been reported to the government can be found at:  and, for sites specific to Oregon:  Real estate licensees are not trained and do not have the expertise to discover and evaluate environmental hazards.  Sellers, therefore, are advised to hire appropriately trained environmental professionals to inspect the property and its systems or fixtures for environmental hazards if there is any question regarding environmental hazards.


The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has developed a statewide woodstove program to promote the use of cleaner-burning woodstoves and to help homeowners with woodstoves burn wood more efficiently and with less pollution. Under Oregon law, no person may sell, offer to sell or advertise to sell a used, non-certified woodstove.  Non-certified woodstoves (including fireplace inserts) are older models (mostly pre-1985) that have not been certified by the DEQ or the federal Environmental Protection Agency to meet cleaner-burning smoke emission standards.

Individual communities in Oregon may have additional rules governing the sale of or use of woodstoves and fireplaces. The seller should ask their agent for assistance or check with appropriate local government agencies.  Countywebsites can be found by visiting: and cities at:  General information about woodstove regulation in Oregon is available at:

Inspection of fireplaces and woodstoves requires special training and expertise.  Although a real estate licensee may be able to help you find a local woodstove professional, they cannot themselves inspect or evaluate a woodstove.


Molds are one of a variety of biological contaminants which can be present in human structures, including in residential housing.  Mildew is perhaps the most common and best known of the molds.  Less well known, and far less common, are certain molds identified as possible contributors to illness, particularly in people with allergies.  Serious mold problems usually involve property with defective siding, poor construction, water penetration problems, improper ventilation or leaking plumbing.

In a few cases, these problems have led to the growth of molds which caused medical conditions in some people. Sellers who have any knowledge or notice of molds in their property should arrange for inspection by a qualified professional.  Information on moisture intrusion and mold problems associated with human structures can be found at: .

Inspection, discovery and evaluation of specific water intrusion or mold problems requires extremely specialized training and is well beyond the scope of a real estate licensee’s expertise.  Sellers are, therefore, advised to hire appropriately trained professionals to inspect the property if the seller is concerned about the possibility of harmful molds.  Any mold condition, whether believed harmful or not, should be disclosed to your agent and any potential buyer.

Smoke Alarms

In Oregon, no person may sell a dwelling unless there is installed in the dwelling unit an approved smoke detector or smoke alarm installed in accordance with the rules of the State Fire Marshall.  Because of this state law requirement, most residential real estate sale forms contain a representation by the seller that, at the earlier of possession or closing date, the dwelling will have an operating smoke detector as required by law.  Sellers should anticipate the smoke alarm requirement and make sure their property is properly equipped prior to marketing the property.

Battery operated ionization smoke alarms sold or used in Oregon must have a 10-year battery and a “hush” mechanism which allows a person to temporarily disengage the alarm.  All dwellings must have the proper type, number and placement of alarms as required by the building codes at the time the dwelling was constructed but not less than one alarm adjacent to each sleeping area and at least one alarm on each level of the dwelling.  (Additional rules apply to rented property.)  Information about smoke alarm and detector requirements in Oregon can found on the State Fire Marshall’s web site at: .

Real estate licensees are not trained in building code or fire code compliance.  If there is any doubt about whether a smoke alarm or detector system complies with building and fire code requirements, a licensed home inspector, or the home alarm or detector company, should be contacted.  Your real estate agent may be able to assist you in finding the right code compliance professional.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms
ffective April, 2011 any person transferring a one or two family dwelling or multifamily housing (additional rules apply to rental property) that contains a carbon monoxide source (heater, fireplace, appliance, or cooking stove that uses coal, kerosene, petroleum products, wood or other fossil fuels that emit carbon monoxide as a by-product of combustion, or has an attached garage with an opening that communicates directly with a living space) must provide a properly functioning carbon monoxide alarm(s) installed at the location(s) that provide carbon monoxide detection for all sleeping areas of the dwelling or housing.  The alarm(s) must be installed in accordance with the rules of the State Fire Marshall and in accordance with any applicable requirements of the state building code.  Information about carbon monoxide alarms and detector requirements in Oregon can be found on the State Fire Marshal’s web site at:

A purchaser or transferee who is aggrieved by a violation of this requirement may bring an individual action in an appropriate court to recover the greater of actual damages or $250 per residential unit (plus fees, including attorney’s fees).  Violation of this requirement does not invalidate any sale or transfer of possession.  Actions for violations must be brought within one (1) year of the sale or transfer of possession.

Because of this state law requirement, most residential real estate forms will contain a representation that, at the earlier of possession or closing date, the dwelling will have an operating carbon monoxide detector as required by law.  Sellers should anticipate the carbon monoxide alarm requirement as it is also included on the new seller’s property disclosure  form.
Real estate licensees are not trained in building code or fire code compliance. If there is any doubt about whether a carbon monoxide alarm complies with the building or fire code requirements, a licensed home inspector, or the alarm company should be contacted.


Deaths, Crimes and External Conditions

In Oregon, certain conditions on or near real property that may be of concern to buyers are considered not to be “material” by state law.  Ordinarily, “material facts” must be disclosed by the seller or the seller’s agent.  However, because state law declares certain facts to be not material, sellers are not held responsible for disclosing them as might otherwise be the case.

Facts that would be subject to disclosure but for the statute include the fact that the property was the site of a death, crime, political activity, religious activity, or any other act or occurrence that does not adversely affect the physical condition of, or title to, real property, including that a convicted sex offender resides in the area.  Although the seller is not required to disclose such facts, they may elect to- for instance disclosing a pedophile living next door to buyers with small children.  Under Oregon law, neither the seller nor their agent is allowed to disclose that an owner or occupant of the real property has or had human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome.


Neighborhoods change over time.  Some of these changes can affect the value or desirability of property.  Building permits, zoning applications and other planning actions are a matter of public record and notice.  Any notice of planning actions in the area, or even knowledge of future plans by neighbors or the government, that the seller has should be discussed with their real estate agent to determine what, if any, disclosure should be made to buyers.

Information about planning departments can be found on the county or city website: city information is available at: .  State road building projects information is available from the Oregon Department of Transportation at:

Location within a school district can be an important attribute of a neighborhood.  School boundaries, however, are subject to change.  If location within a particular school district is going to be advertised to attract buyers or justify the asking price, the seller should investigate the boundaries and the likelihood of change by contacting the school district directly. Oregon law provides a “just compensation” right for some Oregon property owners if a public entity enacts or enforces a land use regulation that has the effect of reducing the value of the property.  Sellers who believe the value of their property is affected by Oregon’s property compensation laws are advised to seek the counsel of appraisers, attorneys or other land use professionals.

Tom Ramsey

Oregon Real Estate Principal Broker

John L Scott Real Estate

Phone: 503-481-0501

Fax: 503-775-0754 
PortlandHouseListings Blog 

Earth Advantage Certified Broker


About - Tom Ramsey, local Realtor

Local Portland Realtor with 10 years experience specializing in residential sales and investment property. Tom Ramsey Oregon Real Estate Principal Broker John L Scott Real Estate Phone: 503-481-0501
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