Heating Oil Tank Program
Buying or Selling a Home with a Heating Oil Tank
Whether you’re buying or selling a home, it’s likely that at some
point you’ll have questions about heating oil tanks. Some key issues to
- What should I know about buying a home
with a heating oil tank?
- If the homeowner/seller knows of any tank no longer in use on the
property, he or she must ensure that the tank is empty of oil.
- The seller must also provide you with documentation that the tank
has been emptied, as explained under the "For Sellers" section.
- Note that a tank that has only been emptied of oil has not been
“decommissioned" (see #6 below.)
- If the owner does not know if there’s a tank on the property, DEQ
recommends the buyer hire a qualified expert to check for one. Always
obtain owner permission prior to conducting any search activities.
- If a tank is found on the property, have a service provider check to
see if it has leaked if either of the following are true:
- The tank is abandoned and has not been decommissioned, including
soil sampling; or
- The tank is active and has not been checked for leaks.
- The current owner of the property is responsible for any necessary
cleanup even if the leak happened before he or she bought the property.
If you buy property knowing that a tank is present and no
work has been done to determine if it has leaked, you also become
responsible for any leaks discovered in the future. You then
would have to contact an attorney for advice if you wanted to recover
any costs from the prior owner.
- What do I need to do if my home uses oil heat?
Nothing, if BOTH of the following are true:
- The oil tank isn’t leaking or hasn’t leaked; and
- You don’t know of any old, abandoned underground heating oil tanks
on your property.
However, be aware that there may have been multiple small oil spills
around the fill pipe when fuel was delivered. Or, the tank could have
had problems in the past that you’re not aware of. Keep in mind that
you’re responsible for cleaning up any contamination from a leak. DEQ
recommends you check your tank for leaks before listing your home. You
may want to consider having a licensed service provider test the soil
underneath to determine whether or not it has leaked. This service may
cost about $200 to $300.
- What do I need to do if my home used to be heated with
You must do ALL of the following:
- Ensure that any abandoned (i.e. unused) heating oil tank on your
property is empty of oil,
- Provide documentation to the buyer
showing that the tank has been emptied, and
- Leave the vent line
in place unless you "decommission" the tank (see #6 below.)
- What documentation do I need to show that my tank is
- Dated receipts from the company that pumped the
oil out of the tank; or
- Receipts from the oil recycling company if you pumped the tank
- What if I don't know if there’s an abandoned tank on my
DEQ recommends that you check for a tank before listing your
property. You can:
Note: If there’s been a leak, you as the property owner are
responsible for cleaning it up to DEQ standards. If you believe the
leak happened before you bought the property, you may want to seek
advice from an attorney about recovering costs from the previous
- Look for an oil fill pipe. It is usually close to the ground and
close to where the furnace is located in your home.
- Look for a vent pipe. You can usually see it attached for two to
eight feet up the side of the house. It is 1.25 to 1.5 inches in
diameter with a small vent cap on it.
- Hire someone to look for an underground tank; this costs about $100.
Look in the Yellow Pages under "Tanks."
- Do I have to do all of these things before I can sell my
Although you may choose not to look for a tank or have your
soil tested, some buyers may require these things be done before the
sale. Doing them ahead of time may save you time in selling your
home. In any case, you must do items number 2 and 3 (above) if
applicable. You are also required by state law (Oregon Revised
Statute 105.464) to give the buyer a disclosure statement saying
whether you know about any underground storage tanks or any
contaminated soil or water on the property.
Contact your Realtor for more information on disclosure statements or
further obligations that buyers or sellers may have about property
- Should I have my tank decommissioned?
Once the tank has been emptied of oil, actual
decommissioning is voluntary.*
"Decommissioning" is a generic term for taking a tank out of service
by cleaning it, then removing it or filling it in place with an inert
material. If you – or the buyer – would like to have the decommissioning
performed in compliance with state standards, you must:
- Have the decommissioning project certified by a licensed service
provider, and soil samples collected to confirm that no oil
contamination was detected; and
- Submit the certified report and documentation to DEQ with a $75
filing fee to have the project registered. DEQ will send you a letter
confirming the decommissioning project is complete.
*For example, you may choose not to clean the tank and remove it
or fill the tank with an inert material or to have soil samples
collected. However, be aware that some buyers or lenders may want the
tank decommissioned to state standards so they do not assume liability
for any problem found in the future.
- What should I do if I know the tank has leaked?
You must notify DEQ within 72 hours of discovery, if you
haven’t already done so, and clean up the leak to DEQ standards. To
report the leak, call 1-800-742-7878. Then contact a Licensed
Heating Oil Tank Service Provider for information on cleanup
options. All service providers are required to report leaks when
they are discovered.