Environmental issues in property transactions—acting for a buyer
Environmental issues in property transactions—acting for a buyer

The following Environment guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Environmental issues in property transactions—acting for a buyer
  • Buyer beware
  • Investigations and searches
  • Contractual protections when environmental liability risks have been identified
  • Environmental insurance

Buyer beware

An innocent buyer can inherit significant environmental liabilities in relation to land and buildings. ‘Caveat emptor’, meaning ‘let the buyer beware’, is a common law principle meaning the seller is under no duty to disclose material facts to a prospective buyer. Please see Practice Notes: Seller’s duty of disclosure and buyer’s remedies and Liability for inaccurate replies to enquiries.

The buyer must therefore make its own searches, enquiries and inspections before entering into a contract, to find out the information it requires about the property. See Practice Notes: Standard pre-contract searches and Types of environmental searches and investigations.

Contaminated land

Clean up of contaminated land can include very high costs for land remediation, running into several million pounds for liabilities associated with groundwater contamination. It can also result in property blight and frustrate the property transaction.

The local authority has a statutory duty under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA 1990) to investigate and secure remediation of contaminated land in their areas. See Practice Note: Contaminated land—local authority duty to inspect land.

Although grant funding for local authority EPA 1990, Pt IIA investigations ceased in 2015, councils can ask 'Appropriate Persons' to pay for remediation works, investigations and monitoring. See Practice Notes: Contaminated land—who may be liable? and Contaminated land—withdrawal of funding for the contaminated land regime. This