Friday, June 8, 2012

Ongoing Litigation Targeting Real Estate Agents Highlights Home Seller Disclosure Issues When Premises Is Near Environmentally Toxic Site

In Gainesville, Florida, The Independent Florida Alligator reports:

  • Two ongoing court cases involving Gainesville residents highlight potential issues about how much information realtors should tell buyers about the Cabot/Koppers Superfund site.
  • The Cabot/Koppers Superfund site is an environmentally toxic site in Northeast Gainesville. Two companies, Cabot Inc. and Koppers Inc., used improper methods to dispose of hazardous chemicals. Now, the soil and water at and around the site are contaminated.
  • [Clara] Melgarejo’s lawsuit states she did not know her home, at 444 NW 30th Ave., was less than 100 feet from the western boundary of the Cabot/Koppers Superfund site when she signed in 2004. She learned about the site in 2009 when the Florida Department of Health sent letters to neighbors to tell them about the site and the health hazards associated with the contaminants.

  • The lawsuit states the realtors knew about the Superfund site but did not disclose that information to the buyer. While Melgarejo was looking at the house, the sellers gave her a property disclosure form that identified toxic substances in or around the property. Asbestos siding was the only item noted.

  • Melgarejo is suing to get out of her contract and to get compensated for damage. Bosshardt Realty Services and the noted realtors responded in court documents, saying they deny all allegations. Documents state the damage noted by Melgarejo was caused by third parties over which the defendants “have no responsibility, duty, domain or control.”

  • In the second case, [Clara Bea] Horton asked the court to set aside the sale of her house because the nearby Superfund site made it essentially worthless.

  • The dispute is based on the fact that … the property is within the area of contamination from the Koppers Superfund site. Accordingly, the property is at best valueless and may represent a virtually unlimited CERCLA liability,” court documents state.

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