Buying or Selling a Home/undisclosed at sale
I'm hoping you can help clarify what the next step should be. We own a single family home in NJ. We purchased this house about 18 years ago. Two years ago the township we live in notified us that we most probably had a residential oil tank buried in our yard. Upon further investigation, we did indeed have one. It was removed but when "independent testers" came around we were told that our ground was contaminated and would cost $140,000 to fix. Our mortgage is already upside down b/c of the slow market. Some of our neighbors had their homeowners insurance cover the cost but ours will not.
When we purchased the house, the oil tank was in the garage. It was never disclosed to us that there was a tank buried in the yard but somehow we are still liable. No one is going to want to buy this house if we try to sell it. Have you ever heard of a situation like this? Do you have any suggestions as to what to do? The broken economy has hit us pretty hard along with the hospital bills for my son's cancer (16 years old at the time). I don't think we can afford to hire a real estate lawyer,
Eighteen years is probably way too long ago to chase after the party from whom you bought the property, Virginia. Although you should find out what is the Statute of Limitations in this case. I doubt if a real estate attorney would charge you for this knowledge. In most cases, attorneys don't charge for their first half hour of listening to your problem.
I wonder if the state of New Jersey would regard this as fraud. If that be the case, there is no limit to the Statute of Limitations. But even if that is so, what are the chances of finding the party who sold you the property. That is if this situation is considered fraud in the first place. That's why it would be a good to see if an attorney would listen to you for at least for 30 minutes.
Further, real estate transactions have become more stringent, especially favoring the buyer down through the years. The days of "buyer beware" long ago faded into nothing. But maybe an attorney would know if the seller took advantage of you, or if the real estate agent in the transaction could be proven to have known about it and sold you a property that was not marketable.
On the other hand, you may just want to talk to your lender because if your bank knew about this situation they most likely would not have lent the money to buy the house, or refinance it if that is what you have done since buying the property. The lender will not look favorably at this either and you just must might be able to work something out with them, especially since you are under water. Your bank (or servicer) may know of a way to save their money and in the process save your situation.
Who knows? A good attorney just might find this situation is ripe for a case for a suit against the lender (they should have known about the tanks on the property before they lent you the funds to buy the property).
There. I have given you at least a couple of ideas that could be pursued, Virginia. I do wish you well.