There’s no surprise worse than discovering the property you just purchased is contaminated with some sort of hazardous waste. Conducting a Phase I site assessment can help warn you of unpleasant and potentially very costly problems before you purchase commercial real estate, protect you as the property owner and mitigate your liability when you’re ready to sell.
At first glance this investigation process may seem like just another painful governmental intrusion. But in fact it’s a smart business investment if you’re considering purchasing property that could even conceivably be contaminated. A Phase 1 site assessment also helps protect lenders or anyone else that must meet “All Appropriate Inquiry” requirements.
Here’s a checklist of factors your Phase 1 site assessment should cover.
Historical search includes:
- Checking maps and directories as far back far as feasible, ideally to when the “property first contained structures or was used for residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial or governmental purposes.”
- Interviews with current and/or past owners and tenants.
- Additional efforts to uncover special knowledge about the property and identify whether the purchase price reflects existence of known contamination.
Regulatory agency review is aimed at discovering any indication of known problems that are deemed not solely the user’s responsibility. This search looks at documents from all relevant jurisdictions including local, county, state, federal or tribal.
Site inspection identifies possible contamination on the property or proximate to it. This review looks at:
- Heating sources such as oil, electric, natural gas or propane.
- Underground and aboveground storage tanks, including fill ports, vent pipes, feed and return lines.
- Plumbing, including sewer, cesspools,leaching fields, drywells and on-site water production wells, roof drainage, sump pumps, floor drains and fixtures.
- Building construction, materials and condition, especially asbestos-containing pipe wrap, floor tiles, roofing, siding and insulation.
- Lead paint.
- Water or mold damage.
- Existing structures, particularly for engineering concerns.
- Fill materials — a common concern throughout New York City.
- Former uses including dry cleaning, dental or X-ray office, gas station or auto repair, manufacturing, printing or photograph processing, etc.
- At least a cursory review of surrounding property.
Findings and recommendations sum up Phase 1 site assessment results. You are not required to formally report these results to any regulatory agency. But if it turns out the real estate you’re considering is indeed contaminated, you’ll be able to make an intelligent, fully-informed decision about whether to go forward, and at what purchase price.