If I Rent Commercial Property, Am I Shielded from Environmental Law Liability?

When someone is buying, leasing or renting a property, he or she may be under preconceived notions that certain laws or regulations may not apply to him or her due to making the deal after dangers already exist.

Typically, this is incorrect based on the laws of the state or country if federal stipulations are involved. It is important to understand what pertains to the situation, the rented or purchased property and the laws that affect these circumstances. Many environmental violations occur without the renter or buyer aware of these hazards or dangers. However, if an infraction is present, and individual may be responsible for correcting it.

When a buyer or renter has finalized an agreement to buy or rent a property, there are usually stipulations attached in the contract. If the property is contaminated, the individual may avoid possible liability through the Superfund federal statute if certain factors are satisfied. All inquiry into the property being purchased or rented must be performed to include the environmental conditions before the land or building is acquired with appropriate care as expected by the law. This situation must also involve no other association with the party liable for cleaning up the contamination. In some events, a lawyer versed in environmental law is needed.

Leasing or Renting Contaminated Property

Many that lease or rent a building or piece of land believe that they may side-step liability if it has not been purchased, and other steps to clean the area up have not been taken. However, persons that lease or rent a location may still be liable for environmental hazards that occur before tenancy transpires. There are two ways to acquire liability when renting or leasing through the Superfund statute that constitutes current owners or operators who are liable for any type of contamination if it predates the property occupancy. This is a federal statute, and applies to all states in the country. The other possibility is if the leaseholder has enough control over the lease that he or she is considered to be the current owner of the property, land or structure and this would then make him or her liable for the contamination and cleanup.

The federal statute of Superfund does not exclude parties unless they cannot be considered the current owners or operators of the property in question. The courts involved have rejected claims about cleanup and disposal no matter when this occurs. For leaseholders or persons with a contractual rental agreement, there is a level of control over the location that holds these persons liable. Various factors are considered by the courts such as the time of the lease, duration, how much control the landlord has, termination clauses, subletting rights with or without consent and if the leaseholder or renter is accountable for taxes, repairs, assessments, surveys and other similar concerns.

Accountability for Environmental Safety

Due to the possible liability for renters, leaseholders and buyers to environmental contaminants, these persons may be held accountable for both safety and cleaning up the problem. This may mean additional expenses to ensure the location is secure from contamination or hazardous waste. However, if there is a time restriction, this may require additional assistance before fines or other penalties are issued for the problem. While a renter may not have the same funds to ensure an area is protected from environmental dangers, he or she may be permitted to extend any time limits to clean the location and eliminate the contaminants.

For persons that rent commercial property from another that was tasked with cleanup, they may need to survey the areas to ensure they prior owner or renter has removed the entirety of the hazard. It is also important to prevent these possible complications through an assessment of the property before renting or leasing the land or building. For some, this may be part of the contractual rental or lease agreement. However, if this is not contained within the documentation, it may be necessary to hire an outside source for assistance in this matter.

Legal Assistance with Environmental Law

Many renters are not aware of any environmental issues that could affect a rented piece of commercial land or structures. If there is any possibility that there could be a contaminant in the location, an environmental law lawyer may be needed to understand what is needed, who is responsible for what and how this affects the rental agreement. Then, he or she may determine to rent elsewhere or continue with a formal contract.

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