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When purchasing a piece of property, it is important to be aware of any environmental liabilities associated with it.
For example, you should find out if there are any registered underground tanks within several miles of the property, any known contaminated properties in the neighborhood, or any property owners who have been fined by the government for failing to meet environmental safety standards. Before, it took a costly site investigation for the information, but now there are online environmental databases available at a fraction of the cost.
Anyone can access reports on otherwise hard to detect environmental issues. With these databases, it is possible to obtain a listing of hazards near a property, or spills and violations attributed to businesses nearby. These services are all relatively inexpensive, but can provide you with priceless information that is useful before you make a purchase.
Lead poisoning is a serious problem which can lead to adverse health problems. In children, high levels of lead can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, behavioral and learning problems, slow growth, and hearing problems.
In adults, lead poisoning can cause reproductive problems, high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorder, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain. Lead poisoning is especially a problem in cities with older buildings.
Typically, lead is present in the paint from older buildings, in the water supply, and in the environment from cars and buses. Preventing lead poisoning in large cities, where there is so much possibility for exposure is both difficult and expensive. Federal programs have attempted to address this problem. For buyers and sellers, lead poisoning is also an issue. Houses that were built before probably have paint that contains lead.
Federal law requires that sellers disclose known information on lead-base paint hazards before selling a house. Sales contracts must include a federal form about lead-based paint in the building. Buyers will have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards and are likely to stipulate corrections. Radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas that has been estimated to cause 5, to 20, lung cancer deaths yearly. It is second only to smoking as a cause of lung cancer.
It has been estimated that nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the US has elevated radon levels. Radon is produced when small amounts of uranium and radium in soil and rocks decay. Radon gas will also decay into smaller and radioactive particles that can be inhaled into the lungs where it can damage cells and cause lung cancer.
Radon is mainly released from soil, water and natural gas which have already been exposed to radon, from solar-heating systems that use radon-emitting rocks, and from uranium or phosphate mine tailings. Radon is naturally released in low concentrations, but inside your house, radon gas can become more concentrated.
Lack of ventilation exhaust fans that bring in air from outside can increase the amount of radon in your home. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests that homes be tested for radon, which should have a radon level of 4 picocuries per liter or less. For people selling their homes, the EPA recommends that the house be tested for radon, and radon levels be reduced, if necessary.
Radon levels can be reduced by increasing the airflow into the house, keeping the vents open year round, and discouraging smoking in the house. For people buying homes, the EPA recommends obtaining radon test results in addition to information about radon reduction systems.
If you are planning to have your home tested for radon, the EPA recommends that the test be conducted in the lowest level of the home that is suitable for occupancy, and you should make sure that the test is done correctly by following the EPA Test Checklist. There are two different types of testing devices available: Passive devices, such as charcoal canisters, alpha track detectors, and charcoal liquid scintillation devices are exposed to air in the home for a specified amount of time, and sent to a laboratory to be analyzed.
Active devices, like continuous radon monitors and continuous working level monitors, continuously measure and record the amount of radon in the air, and require operation by trained testers. These tests can be performed over a long term, or a short term, with the long term tests by active devices considered to be more accurate.
Underground heating oil tanks can pose many potential problems to both home buyers and sellers. They have been the source of many environmental problems such as contamination of surrounding soil and ground water. Leaks are caused by the rust inside underground tanks, or by an electrical condition sparked by electric utility lines. Buyers should have the tank inspected to make sure that it is structurally sound. Buyers who do not want an underground fuel tank can arrange for an above ground tank to be installed in the basement, an underground tank to be shut off.
Cleanups of any leaks will also have to be taken care of. For buyers, the underground heating oil tank should be written in the sales contract. For sellers, your lawyer should make sure that the description and condition of the underground heating oil is accurate and up-to-date. Real property has become increasingly more valuable and the question of how parties can take ownership of their property has gained greater importance. The form of ownership taken -- the vesting of title -- will determine who may sign various documents involving the property and future rights of the parties to the transaction.
These rights involve such matters as: Also, how title is vested can have significant probate implications in the event of death. The Land Title Association LTA advises those purchasing real property to give careful consideration to the manner in which title will be held. Buyers may wish to consult legal counsel to determine the most advantageous form of ownership for their particular situation, especially in cases of multiple owners of a single property.
The LTA has provided the following definitions of common vestings as an informational overview. Consumers should not rely on these as legal definitions. The Association urges real property purchasers to carefully consider their titling decision prior to closing, and to seek counsel should they be unfamiliar with the most suitable ownership choice for their particular situation. Sole ownership may be described as ownership by an individual or other entity capable of acquiring title.
Examples of common vestings in cases of sole ownership are:. The title company insuring title will require the spouse of the married man or woman acquiring title to specifically disclaim or relinquish his or her right, title and interest to the property. This establishes that it is the desire of both spouses that title to the property be granted to one spouse as that spouse's sole and separate property.
Bruce Buyer, a married man, as his sole and separate property. A form of vesting title to property owned by husband and wife during their marriage which they intend to own together. Community property is distinguished from separate property, which is property acquired before marriage, by separate gift or bequest, after legal separation, or which is agreed to be owned only by one spouse. Real property conveyed to a married man or woman is presumed to be community property, unless otherwise stated.
Since all such property is owned equally, husband and wife must sign all agreements and documents of transfer. Under community property, either spouse has the right to dispose of one half of the community property, including transfers by will. Bruce Buyer and Barbara Buyer, husband and wife as community property.
A form of vesting title to property owned by two or more persons, who may or may not be married, in equal interest, subject to the right of survivorship in the surviving joint tenant s.
Title must have been acquired at the same time, by the same conveyance, and the document must expressly declare the intention to create a joint tenancy estate. When a joint tenant dies, title to the property is automatically conveyed by operation of law to the surviving joint tenant s.
Therefore, joint tenancy property is not subject to disposition by will. Bruce Buyer and Barbara Buyer, husband and wife as joint tenants. A form of vesting title to property owned by any two or more individuals in undivided fractional interests. These fractional interests may be unequal in quantity or duration and may arise at different times.
Each tenant in common owns a share of the property, is entitled to a comparable portion of the income from the property and must bear an equivalent share of expenses.
A corporation is a legal entity, created under state law, consisting of one or more shareholders but regarded under law as having an existence and personality separate from such shareholders. A partnership is an association of two or more persons who can carry on business for profit as co-owners, as governed by the Uniform Partnership Act. A partnership may hold title to real property in the name of the partnership.
A trust is an arrangement whereby legal title to property is transferred by the grantor to a person called a trustee, to be held and managed by that person for the benefit of the people specified in the trust agreement, called the beneficiaries. This form of ownership is a legal entity and is similar to both the corporation and the partnership.
The operating agreement will determine how the L. Like the corporation its existence is separate from its owners. How title is vested has important legal consequences.
You may wish to consult an attorney to determine the most advantageous form of ownership for your particular situation. This is an extremely competitive market, one that is advantageous to the seller. Sometimes, homes will sell as soon as they are listed or even before homes are listed. Typically, during a hot market, multiple offers will be made on each home and more often than not, homes will sell for more than their asking price. It is even more crucial to be prepared and to be ready as a buyer when the market is hot.
It can be easy to get caught up in the bid for a home, but if you are prepared pre-approved, solid in price range, realistic about your needs , it is easier to remain focused on your housing needs and price range. Estate planners often recommend "Living Trusts" as a viable option when contemplating the manner in which to hold title to real property.
When a property is held in a Living Trust, title companies have particular requirements to facilitate the transaction. While not comprehensive, following are answers to many commonly asked questions.
If you have questions that are not answered below, your title company representative may be able to assist you, however, one may wish to seek legal counsel. A typical trust is the Family Trust in which the Husband and Wife are the Trustees and, with their children, the Beneficiaries. Those who establish the trust and transfer their property into it are known as Trustors or Settlors.
The settlor's usually appoint themselves as Trustees and they are the primary beneficiaries during their lifetime. After their passing, their children and grandchildren usually become the primary beneficiaries if the trust is to survive, or the beneficiaries receive distributions directly from the trust if it is to close out.
Sometimes called an Inter-vivos Trust, the Living Trust is created during the lifetime of the Settlors as opposed to being created by their Wills after death and usually terminates after they die and the body of the Trust is distributed to their beneficiaries. Only your attorney or accountant can answer the question; some common reasons for holding property in a Trust are to minimize or postpone death taxes, to avoid a time consuming probate, and to shield property from attack by certain unsecured creditors.
Married persons can usually exempt a significant part of their assets from taxation and may postpone taxes after the first of them to die passes. You should check with your attorney or accountant before taking any action. A Trustee can take any action permitted by the terms of the Trust, and the typical Trust Agreement does give the Trustee the authority to borrow and encumber real property.
However, not all lenders will lend on a property held in trust, so check with your lender first.