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Buying or selling a property with an oil tank- Essential Guide

View profile for Sandra  Wesolek
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Are you buying a property with a domestic oil storage tank, or maybe you already own a property fitted with one and are thinking about selling? If so, this article provides important information.

Essentially an oil storage tank is a container used to hold oil before it is used, for a domestic property the oil is generally used for heating the property.

It’s important to know and understand the type of tank and the pipework arrangement. Based on the location of tank and its use, it can be classified as a surface, above or underground tank. The materials used will depend on the intended use, the environment, safety, location, and other legal requirements. 

The person/company installing the oil storage tank should be registered with a ‘competent person’ scheme. This ensures they can deal with any building control issues and certify that their work complies with the current Building Regulations. Following the installation of the tank, you should receive a Building Regulations compliance certificate.  This is an important document as it proves the tank has been installed in accordance with current Building Regulations.

Please note the person installing the tank can be prosecuted and fined if they do not comply with Building Regulations and the property owner themselves can be held liable by the local authority to cover the cost of any faulty work being fixed.

When purchasing a property with an oil storage tank it is important to check the overall condition of the tank and its pipes. These checks should be carried out by a suitably qualified engineer. 

Other things to check include the current level of oil, whether it is included in the sale or if the seller proposes to charge for it, when the tank was last filled, the refill cost, copies of the installation certificate and any maintenance/service reports. 

Oil spills from domestic tanks are rare, however they can be both expensive and very damaging to clean-up. If there is a spillage you should not attempt to clean it up yourself but instead arrange for a professional to do so.

A leak from an oil tank may contaminate the ground water or drinking water supplies.  This may cause harm to human and animal health, the property and the environment. You could face legal action if an oil spill pollutes a water course.

It is sensible to ensure your home insurance policy covers potential spillages as investigations and clean-up can cost thousands of pounds. Many home insurance policies only cover replacing the lost oil and the damage caused from any spillage and do not cover environmental investigations and clean-up costs which are often the most expensive aspect. 

It’s common for oil storage tank cover to be included in the policy with a financial limit and restrictions, some policies only cover sudden and identifiable damage to the tank rather than a gradual leak or as a result of wear and tear and/or lack of maintenance. 

Therefore, it’s important to carefully check the terms of your current/future insurance policies cover all of the above.

To reduce the risk of an oil spill you can install a bunded oil tank to provide additional protection. A bunded oil tank is essentially a tank within a tank, with the outer layer acting as a fail-safe to protect from leaks.

The tank should also have a visible domestic oil tank sticker which advises how to look after the oil and what to do if there is an oil spill.

To further reduce the risk of leaks and spills you should ensure that your tank is regularly checked, the oil deliveries are supervised, and the boiler is regularly inspected by an Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) engineer.  It is recommended these checks are carried out annually.

Unfortunately, heating oil is pricey, as such this makes it attractive to thieves and prone to potential theft. It is best if the tank is placed out of sight from the main road, however it should be noted the position still needs to comply with the Building Regulations, so access to the tank should not be restricted. It is wise to also invest in adding locks or lockable valves.  Your engineer or supplier should be able to advise you on the most secure and cost appropriate options available on the market. 

What to do next

If you have any queries about buying or selling a property with an oil tank please call 01242 574 244 and ask for our Residential Property Team who will be delighted to assist you.

The information contained on this page has been prepared for the purpose of this blog/article only. The content should not be regarded at any time as a substitute for taking legal advice.