Adjacent Property Owner Rights: Because Some Neighbors Can Be Hazardous to Your Financial Health

Owners of property located adjacent to high environmental risk sites, such as gas stations or dry cleaners, should be concerned about the impact of the adjacent site on their property. Contamination originating from the adjacent off-site source can impact the marketability of their property.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), there are specific actions that a property owner can take to minimize the impact of an adjacent property with environmental issues.

The Dry Cleaning Contamination Remediation Program was passed during the 1998 legislative session. Adjacent site liability limitations are addressed in this law. These statutory immunities apply to properties adjacent to dry cleaners, but similar regulatory and enforcement procedures apply to gas station sites, based on ERMI experience and interviews with several officials in the FDEP Petroleum Cleanup Section. According to FDEP and the referenced law, an adjacent property owner can minimize the impact of being located adjacent to a high risk site by demonstrating the following to the FDEP:

  • The adjacent property owner must have no financial association with the contaminated property.
  • The adjacent property must not have contributed to or exacerbated the contamination in any way.
  • The adjacent property owner must demonstrate that the soil or groundwater at their site has been impacted by the contamination originating at the source property.

Environmental Assessment Benefits

If someone is interested in purchasing a property adjacent to a high risk site, you need to know about your property owner rights. An environmental assessment can provide the following valuable benefits. The benefits would also be valuable to existing owners:

  • Determine if the site has or has not been impacted.
  • Determine the extent of the impact.
  • Identify conditions at a specific point in time for monitoring purposes.
  • Provide court defensible data.
  • Demonstrate “Innocent Landowner” status.

For existing owners, demonstrating that the subject property has not been impacted will assist with efforts to sell the subject property.

For prospective buyers of the subject property, identifying that the property is “clean” at the time of purchase will provide significant benefits if the site is impacted in the future. A strong defensible case can be presented to protect the subject owner’s rights in such a scenario.

For existing owners, demonstrating that the site has been impacted should enable the FDEP to review the case and provide documentation to alleviate concerns, provided the criteria on the previous page are met. Such documentation is generally referred to as a “comfort letter”, and should assist with resale and financing when necessary. Such letters should satisfy prospective buyers and enable real estate transactions to proceed without conflict.