Buyers/Sellers and Landlords of Properties – Commercial or residential:(“P”) contamination
There is increasing publicity about how widespread the problem of P contamination of properties has become and the resulting obligations and impact on property owners.
If a property has been used for the manufacture, or even the smoking, of P then potential contamination may lead to the need for costly remediation which goes beyond cleaning or replacement of carpet and soft furnishings through to major stripping out of GIB and wooden framing or even demolition. There is also the potential for contamination to be recorded against a property on its LIM report.
Landlords must provide a clean property and are at risk of breaching their obligations not only under the Residential Tenancies Act but potentially under other statutes such as the Health Act or Building Act.
Whilst it is unrealistic to think that one can prevent an occupier from carrying out activities which lead to the problem, owners can take steps to minimise the risk and purchasers of properties can avoid inheriting the problem.
There are various warning signs which may include –
- Unusual chemical smells – sickly sweet or solvent smells;
- Numerous chemical containers present – solvents, acids, flammable products;
- Chemical stains around sinks or drains;
- Plastic or glass containers with glass or rubber tubing;
- Yellow/brown staining of interior walls, ceilings, benches or appliance surfaces.
There are various companies offering testing services which involve gathering samples from the premises which are analysed by an accredited laboratory to provide a report as to the presence and/or extent of any contamination. You should ensure that a suitably qualified person is engaged to carry out the testing.
As a precautionary measure, if you have any concerns that a property may be contaminated then it would be prudent to have the premises tested prior to purchasing any property or entering into a new tenancy agreement.
“There is also the potential for contamination to be recorded against a property on its LIM report.”
If, after finding evidence of any P contamination, you are still interested in proceeding with the purchase there is an opportunity to make provision in the purchase agreement for cleaning or an allowance for the potential cost of cleaning or appropriate remedial works.
A tenant should be asked to acknowledge, in writing, that the premises have been tested and are free from contamination and you may seek to include provisions in the tenancy agreement allowing for further testing to be carried out during the tenancy and that the use or manufacture of P will be a breach of the tenancy agreement and may lead to a claim for damages.
You should check the scope of your policy as regards P contamination as there may be exclusions or limitations on any
If you require specific advice or assistance concerning the issue of P contamination in relation to any interest in a property, please contact us.
Source: InBrief Summer 2016