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A Heating Oil Tank Guide for Realtors, Owners & Home Inspectors

Heating Oil Tank

Is there a heating oil tank at your home, a home you’re selling, or a home you’re inspecting?

We here at Greentrax, Inc. are sharing this essential heating oil tank guide today to help real estate professionals, property owners and home inspectors better assess their oil tank situation.

How To Know If There Is A Buried Heating Oil Tank On The Property

Finding out if there is a heating oil tank on a property is critical. Time is of the essence. Do not delay. It doesn’t matter if you are a listing agent or buyer’s agent, the tank has to be dealt with before closing. 

The below table will help you find some telltale signs of buried heating oil tanks.

Is there or was there still a buried heating oil tank on the property?YESA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated or NO
There are 2 pipes sticking out of the ground where the owner says the oil tank used to beA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated
There is 1 small pipe next to the house foundation that has a cap on it that looks like a mushroomA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated
There are 2 small copper lines in the basement wall sticking out, going to the outsideA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated
There is 2 copper lines sticking up out of the basement concrete floorA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated
There is an oil smell coming through the basement foundation wallA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated
There is a petroleum odor or a red liquid in my sump pump basin (hole on concrete that the pump sits in)A picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated
The property owner said the tank was removed or abandoned years ago but they do not have any paperworkA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated


What To Do After You’ve Found An Underground Fuel Storage Tank

If you said yes to any (or all!) of the questions above, it is extremely likely you have an underground fuel storage tank. The table below will instruct you on how to move forward to make sure the tank is dealt with properly.

What should be done after we know we have an underground fuel storage tank?YESA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated or NO
Call Greentrax, Inc. at (410) 439-1085A picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated
Pretend the tank is not there, and forget about itIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Dump sand or pea gravel to fill the pipeIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Cut the fill pipe off below ground to hide itIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Call a general contractor, HVAC company, plumber, or friend with a backhoe to remove the tankIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Dig down to the top of the tank myself and cut a hole in itIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Call my oil delivery company to resolve the problemA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated

Now, the last one is a tricky one. 

Most oil delivery companies are not well-versed in the MDE rules regarding underground tanks. 

Some of them may give you correct information, while others may not. Some may be able to price removing the tank for you, while others may not. 

The truth is that very few oil delivery companies in Maryland are actually licensed underground tank removers. It’s kind of like calling your county public water department and asking for their advice on replacing a toilet. Just because water goes in the toilet doesn’t mean they can help you with replacing it.

Likewise, just because the oil company fills the tank doesn’t make them experts on the tank itself. 

Important Facts To Know About Heating Oil Tanks

Before we go on, let’s take a quick quiz to see just how much you know about heating oil tanks – and when they really need to be removed from your home.

True or False Facts About Oil TanksTRUEA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generatedor FALSE
The average lifespan of an underground or aboveground oil tank is 20 yearsA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated
It’s obvious when a tank is leaking because more oil is usedIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
A tank can’t be leaking if the oil level is constantly measuredIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
When I stop using the tank, I have to have it removed or properly abandoned in place within 6 monthsA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated
I am buying a house “AS-IS” so the seller won’t be responsible for removing the buried tank before closingIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
The buried tank is more than 20 years old so I should have it testedIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
I can sell a house without having to remove the buried heating oil tankIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
If my tank leaks, my home insurance will pay to clean up the leakIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
The oil delivery company will tell me if anything is wrong with my tankIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
If my oil tank leaks, it could cost $100,000 to do the cleanupIcon

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
I should have my UST (underground Storage Tank) removed now because it is original to the houseA picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated

Who Is Responsible For Removing The Buried Oil Tank

If you are a home SELLER or the SELLER’S agent, you have to remove the tank.

Just because you don’t want to remove the buried oil tank doesn’t mean you can just forget about it. If the tank is no longer in use, or not hooked up to the heat system or water heater, then the Maryland Department of the Environment requires the tank be removed. 

You have no choice. It has to be done. It’s state law. 

If the underground oil tank is still in use, I can guarantee it’s over 20 years old and will need to be removed anyway. Why? Because more and more frequently the buyers’ home insurance company, lender, or bank will not let them go to settlement on a property with an old buried oil tank still there.

Now, what if you are the BUYER or BUYER’S agent?

Do not let your client buy a property with an old buried tank. 

Make it a condition to sale that the buried oil tank be removed. Don’t waste your money on a tank test or soil test. There are many ways to get false positives and false negatives on these tests and in the end, that money could have been put towards the tank removal and replacement with a new aboveground tank. 

This is important because you do not want your buyer to own the property for five minutes, then remove the tank and be responsible for a leaking tank remediation that can cost $5,000 – $10,000. After all, they are not the ones who were responsible for the leak. 

Additional Reasons To Get An Oil Tank Removed Before Settlement

If you are thinking of selling the property, we have a few more reasons why it is a good idea to get the tank removed well before the settlement. 

  1. If the tank has leaked enough that the oil has contaminated the basement with an oil smell in the house, soaked through the basement walls, or gotten into the drain tile or into the sump pit. This will take additional time and money to deal with and could extend well beyond the closing date.
  2. The oil can also contaminate the drinking well water on the property and the state would require additional water testing for 12 – 18 months after the oil leak has been found and cleaned up.
  3. If the contaminated soil cannot sufficiently be excavated onsite to obtain a clean soil sample or make MDE happy, the state can require additional soil testing and investigation onsite which can drag on for months and months. 

How To Get Your Oil Tanked Removed Quickly And Affordably

The bottom line is to get the oil tank removed. Think of it like the roof. If the shingles were rated for 20 years but the roof was 50 years old, it would be a no-brainer that the house needs a new roof before you can go to closing.

Tell your seller to remove the oil tank right away, or make sure your buyer knows it should be negotiated as part of a deal that seller will pay for the work. 

Whichever party you’re a part of, we are here to help. Call GreenTRAX today at (410) 439-1085   

to get this taken care of in an affordable, timely manner.

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More To Explore

The Maryland Department of the Environment is cancelling the reimbursement fund for homeowners with leaking heating oil tanks!

This cancellation takes effect June 30th, 2024. You need to have your buried oil tank removed NOW, so if the tank is leaking you can get reimbursed for remediation costs before the program goes away. Click here for more information on the reimbursement fund as it operates now.

We urge everyone to contact their representatives in Annapolis and the Governors office and tell them DO NOT cancel the homeowner reimbursement fund for leaking residential oil tanks! They can still renew this program before this year’s legislative session ends.

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