Does contaminated land pose a threat to potential property buyers?

The thought of buying a property on contamined land sounds really scary, especially to those with young families or pets. The good news is, however, that contaminated land doesn’t generally pose a huge threat to those who live on it, and that there are many ways to remediate the land from contamination.

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What are the threats posed by contaminated land?

The level of threat will depend hugely on what the land was used for previously. Any house that is built on what was once industrial land (a brownfield site) is likely to have some contamination. The threat is that chemicals in the soil can enter humans, for instance via plants which are grown at the property. Chemicals mainly contaminate the soil, but also leach into groundwater and even ponds and lakes. Some threats are not just to humans, but to the natural environment around your property, and may even affect the property itself. This may especially be the case with corrosive substances. In very rare cases, contaminants may pose a fire risk.

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What to do if an environmental search discovers land contamination?

The most likely way that you will discover a house you want to buy is on contaminated land, is via the environmental searches your conveyancer undertakes as part of the house buying process. If the search finds that the property is on contaminated land, this may become a problem for your mortgage company.

In the vast majority of cases, land can be returned to its natural, healthy state with the help of an experienced land remediation service. There are various ways a land remediation service will decontaminate soil and groundwater, which will depend on the type of chemicals involved and the size of the area. Further good news is that the responsibility of cleaning it up lies at the feet of the person who caused it (i.e the industrial company) or after that, the current owner. This means you can either request that the owner organises a clean-up of the land, or, if your mortgage company allows it, you can continue to purchase the property but negotiate a lower selling price with the seller.

Contaminated land rarely poses a great threat and it can usually be dealt with easily by an experienced remediation company.


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