Frequent Questions about Legal Issues
Frequently Accessed Laws, Regulations, and Legal Information
- Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act
- All Appropriate Inquiry
- Comfort/Status Letters (18pp, 61K)
- Underground Storage Tanks Lender Liability
- Windfall Lien Guidance
- Common Elements Guidance
Useful Legal Fact Sheets
- Prospective Purchaser Inquiry Service
- Windfall Lien FAQs
- Contiguous Property Owner Guidance Reference Sheet
- Common Elements Reference Sheet
The cleanup of contaminated property and the clarification of environmental cleanup liability are the building blocks to the sustainable reuse of previously-used property. This page answers common questions about the legal issues related to reuse and revitalization of formerly contaminated sites and properties and discusses the statutory authorities associated with the various types of contaminated sites.
- I want to purchase a contaminated site - what legal issues do I need to know about?
- Should I find out about the available liability protections before purchasing the site?
- How do I find out what liability protections are available?
- Whom do I contact for more information about legal issues?
Legal issues are important when buying or reusing property that is contaminated, formerly contaminated, or may be contaminated. The cleanup of contaminated property and the clarification of environmental cleanup liability are the building blocks to the revitalization of contaminated and formerly contaminated property. There are complex legal issues associated with reuse of all contaminated properties. In most cases, all are surmountable and the property can be bought and reused with properly managed liability protections. Of note, the legal issues that might arise during the revitalization of a contaminated property will vary based on the type of contaminated site, as different types of sites are tied to different cleanup laws.
The short answer. Yes. For some types of contaminated properties, liability or responsibility for the cleanup attaches to a purchaser of such property even if the purchaser did not cause the contamination. So it is often the best practice to research the site and determine what liability protections are available and to obtain those protections before taking title to the property. The good news Is that there are numerous liability protections that a person can obtain to protect themselves from all or some of the legal responsibility for the cleanup.
Because each type of site is cleaned up under a different cleanup law, a person seeking to obtain liability protection will have to determine what type of site they are working with. If you don't know the site type, the Getting Started page can walk you through the steps to figure this out.
Once you have determined which cleanup law and governmental entity was (or is) involved in the cleanup of your property, you will be able to predict more accurately what legal issues you might encounter in your revitalization project. In addition to researching these issues, EPA encourages people to consult with their legal counsel on liability protection matters. To learn more about the appropriate revitalization tool for each site type, click on one of the types of contaminated sites below.
Region 4 staff can provide information to help you work through legal issues associated with contaminated and formerly contaminated properties. Contact the Region 4 staff associated with your site, or the Region's Revitalization Staff.