How Environmental Laws Can Impact Your Real Estate Transaction


When purchasing real estate, environmental issues may not be at the top of everyone’s priorities. However, environmental regulations are a serious issue, especially for anyone looking to purchase a property for commercial purposes. That being said, almost anyone can suffer from environmental hazards, particularly if the property once housed a business. Here are just some of the ways that environmental laws can impact your real estate transaction:


  1. You will need to inspect the property for potential environmental problems
    • If you are buying a property, it is generally considered a good idea to have the property inspected before you close. These inspections can not only reveal potential damage to the foundation, they can also find potential violations of local, state, or federal environmental laws. For example, leaky oil tanks are a common problem that can lead to toxic fuel spills, and radon is a surprisingly common hazard in certain parts of New Jersey.
  2. You will need to check for potential environmental contaminants
    • Another potential problem that may come up is the presence of toxic materials that can be dangerous to people, the environment, or both. Asbestos is a common problem, but many other chemicals commonly used in construction can become environmental hazards over time. People looking into buying older buildings should be especially wary of unsafe materials and chemicals that may be present on the premises.
  3. You may need to issue an environmental impact statement for any development
    • Along with other environmental requirements, you will need to create an environmental impact statement if you intend to do any significant development on the property. This includes describing all foreseeable environmental damage, as well as describing the steps you will use to mitigate that damage as much as possible. Failure to properly assess the environmental impact of your actions could result in legal problems later on.
  4. You need to be wary of environmental laws at all levels
    • Not only do the federal and state governments issue environmental regulations, but many local governments have their own environmental ordinances around real estate development. These local laws can often be some of the biggest hurdles to development, preventing developers from doing anything that might negatively impact the local environment. Being wary of these environmental laws is key to ensuring a successful real estate transaction.
  5. You can be held accountable for a previous owner’s environmental breaches
    • Just because you didn’t own a property when an environmental breach occurred does not mean you are not responsible for it. Buying a property with existing environmental issues can become a major liability if you are not careful. That is why you should always have a real estate lawyer to help you with the process of buying a property, to help protect you from any legal issues that may arise.

    The law office of Georgaklis & Mallas PLLC is experienced in various areas of real estate-related transactions. The firm’s skilled attorneys handle both commercial and residential transactions on behalf of lending institutions, real estate investment and management companies, business and individual clients. Call (718) 238-2400 for more information or to schedule a consultation.