Mystery of the underground oil tank

Editor’s note: Robert Bruss is temporarily away. The following column from Bruss’ “Best of” collection first appeared Sunday, July 16, 2006.

DEAR BOB: I am the fifth owner of an 80-year-old house. I have owned it for 11 years. While trying to determine why a patch of my lawn was dying, I discovered the home’s original underground heating oil tank. This was not disclosed to me when I bought the house. As best I can determine, the tank has not been used for 35 years. It is empty. I estimate it to be 700 gallons. Should this have been disclosed to me? –Gary J.

DEAR GARY: If your seller knew of the underground oil storage tank, he or she should have disclosed it to you. However, since you have owned the house 11 years, the statute of limitations expired long ago.

But I doubt that is the cause of the brown patch in your lawn. If there was any oil in the leaking tank, it would seep downward, not upward. Perhaps the soil above the tank was contaminated when the tank was being filled. Maybe a simple replacement of the soil above the tank will solve your lawn problem. For details on the legal aspects, please consult a local real estate attorney.


DEAR BOB: My wife and I just bought a house for her parents because they couldn’t get a mortgage. They live in the house and pay us for the mortgage. We want them to get the tax deductions. But we are concerned about adding them to the title in case they end up in a nursing home or in some other way are forced to use the home’s equity. Is there a way for them to get the tax deductions and avoid liability if they are sued? We are considering a contract for deed but are concerned about the tax liability on ourselves –Jeff R.

DEAR JEFF: Unless the parents’ names are on the home title or they have a contract to buy their principal residence (such as a contract for deed), they are not entitled to claim itemized income-tax deductions for the mortgage interest and property taxes they pay. Please consult your tax adviser to discuss your tax choices.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.


DEAR BOB: I got a divorce and my ex-husband’s name has been taken off everything, but the title company refuses to take his name off the house. What can I do? –Kellie W.

DEAR KELLIE: To get your ex-husband’s name off the title to real estate, he must sign a quitclaim deed to you. If he refuses to do so, his name remains on the title. The title company can’t do anything without his properly notarized quitclaim deed signed by him. Your divorce attorney should have insisted on receiving this important document as part of the divorce proceedings.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “Probate Property Profit Secrets Revealed,” is now available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, Calif., 94010, or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet delivery at Questions for this column are welcome at either address.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

Copyright 2007 Inman News

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