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David C Sulock

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Selling a Home: What Are My Disclosure Obligations?

Mar 15, 2023 11:00:00 AM / by David C Sulock posted in Due Diligence, home disclosure


In New Jersey or Pennsylvania there is a disclosure list a seller should complete.  Any disclosure is a representation of known facts and are meant to make knowledge about a property available to buyers.  In  New Jersey's there are statutes, the state's courts have carved out rules (under "common law") that are meant to protect buyers against sellers who fail to disclose material facts or who hide information about their property.

The New Jersey Supreme Court, addressed a home sale where the seller failed to mention a cockroach infestation, the courts ruled this oversight as  "silence may be fraudulent." (See Weintraub v. Krobatsch, 64 N.J. 445 (1974).)  So there are court cases where an as is sale and non disclosure spelled bad news for the seller post sale.


NJ PA real estate disclosure

It is in your best interest to complete the Sellers Disclosure statement even if it is not required by law.  You must consider that if you were buying a property and no disclosure was completed by the buyer you would question what they may be hiding.  Conversely when you fill out the disclosure, know that it can be considered a legal document.   Withholding facts can create problems later on.   In a perfect world,  sellers would be 100% encompassing on disclosing both the good and bad about a property.

Selling a New Jersey Home: What Are My Disclosure Obligations?

Did you know that if you have your property under contract and the deal falls apart because the buyer found an unknown defect, well that defect is now required to be put on a new disclosure statement.   There is a paper trail that can lead someone who looks for these facts, so honesty is the best policy.


New Jersey has passed laws adding to the disclosure requirements of sellers.  In recent years disclosing awareness of mold water damage and lead in plumbing.   Pertaining to mold or water damage:

Yes    No         
[ ]      [ ]               9)        Are you aware of any water leakage, accumulation or 
                                       dampness within the basement or crawl spaces or any 
                                       other areas within any of the structures on the property? 

[ ]      [ ]               9a)      Are you aware of the presence of any mold or similar 
                                         natural substance within the basement or crawl spaces 
                                         or any other areas within any of the structures on the 

Regarding Lead

Bill S-829  signed 11/08/2021 requires property condition disclosure statements to include a question concerning the presence of lead plumbing in residential properties.  For lead this means if the owner had water testing performed for lead it must be disclosed.  


Environmental Disclosure in Residential Real Estate


Informed buyers and sellers should know that asbestos and lead paint were green building products and were banned in the 1970s, so older homes likely have these compounds in the home and the owner likely has never tested for them, they are simple assumed to be present. unless you do a lead paint inspection:   Lead Paint Inspections

lead paint inspections


The same time frame of pre say 1980's home, oi heat was likely used in the past and the property.  These tanks rust and leak oil costing homeowners Tens of thousands of dollars in environmental cleanup.  Buyers performing due diligence will complete a tank sweep to prevent buying a contaminated property.   Oil Tank Sweep FAQ

Being fair to sellers, many bought a home on natural gas and never did a tank sweep so they may not honestly know if a tank is or was present

Questions?  Free Consultation



Real Estate Disclosure in an "As Is" sale.

Many sellers want to sell a house "as is." This means that the seller does not intend on making any repairs as part of the sale process.   Generally speaking, "as is" houses are priced lower than market value.

Real estate contracts can have a "as is" clause because the buyer is entitled to inspect and cancel, if warranted, this "as is" clause is often misunderstood by sellers to mean that if the buyer wants the property he has to take it "as is," without any chance to cancel the contract or request repairs from the seller.

The "as is" clause more accurately is a situation where the seller  has no intention of making repairs to the property or even into entering negotiations about repairs. The "as is" clause is accompanied by an inspection clause that permits the buyer to cancel the contract should the buyer's inspections reveal major defects that the buyer is not willing accept the property with.


Major issues could be septic, contamination from an oil tank, mold or structural.  Typically, a dollar amount is put in the contract that will allow the buyer to back out if the cost is above a certain threshold.


Environmental issues in an As Is sale, such as a tank leak tend to bend the seller to address the problem.  The reason an environmental issue can tip the scales in an "As Is" sale is because the cost for cleanup of say $40,000, dings the value of the property and can prevent a mortgage or insurance carrier to get involved.     In theory and as is sale is a wish that s not always granted to sellers.

oil tanks and as is sale

You can never toss out ethics and even in an as is sale if a seller intentionally misrepresents, fraudulently conceal, or even negligently conceal something unrelated to the failure of inspection, even the "as is" clause might not protect the seller under common law fraud or misrepresentation case. Case in point hiding a underground oil tank on the property could be unwise.    We find many oil tanks on as is sales, even on these sales when the home was flipped, and the flipper was the as is buyer.  Oil Tank Sweeps


Real Estate Disclosure has progressed over the years and many sellers wanting a fast a sale as possible will have their own home inspection performed prior to listing the home for sale.    This allows the seller to contemplate what issues are present and get estimates to undertake these repairs and disclosing what they did and did not do.    These proactive sellers realize they are selling a used home so wear and tear is expected.   In our experience when we deal with buyers who have had sellers do a pre-sale inspection and repair both sides appear to be more at ease, simple due to the fact that both parties want as much transparency as possible.



*Legal representation in any transaction is always prudent no matter if you are selling or buying.



Environmental disclosure in real estate




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Black Mold

Mar 14, 2023 1:14:00 PM / by David C Sulock


Why are black mold and unicorns similar? 

Both black mold and unicorns are mythical and do not exist in the real world.  Wait we are saying something that goes against what most people think they know.   There is no mold called black mold.

what is black mold

Case in point, there are ZERO molds named after colors and in fact, most molds have names that are difficult to pronounce.   The list below compromises a wide variety of molds and you will note that black mold did not make the list.  This mold list also demonstrates how easy it would be to mispronounce a mold by name.  In fairness, it would be much easier if molds were named after colors.

Acremonium, Alternaria, Amerospores, Amphobotrys, Annellophora/Taeniolella rudis, Aphanocladium, Arthrinium, Arthrobotrys, Arthrospore formers, Ascospores, Ascotricha, Aspergillus, Aureobasidium, Bactrodesmium, Basidiospores, Beauveria, Beltrania, Bipolaris, Blastobotrys, Botryodiplodia theobromae, Botryomyces, Botrytis, Calcarisporium, Cephaloascus, Ceratocystis/Ophiostoma group, Cercospora, Chaetomium, Choanephora, Chromelosporium, Chrysonilia, Chrysosporium, Circinella, Cladosporium, Coelomycetes, Cunninghamella, Curvularia, Dactylaria, Dicyma,  Doratomyces, Drechslera, Bipolaris, and Exserohilum group, Emericella, Emericellopsis, Engyodontium, Epicoccum, Erysiphe, Oidium, Eurotium, Exserohilum, Fusariella, Fusarium, Geomyces, Geotrichum, Gliocladium, Gliomastix, Gonatobotrys, Gonatobotryum, Graphium, Helminthosporium, Hyalodendron, Lasiodiplodia theobromae, Leptosphaeria, Memnoniella, Microascus, Microstroma, Monilia, Mortierella, Mucor, Mycotypha, Myrothecium, Myxomycetes, Neosartorya, Nigrospora, Nodulisporium, Non-Sporulating, Ochroconis, Oedocephalum, Oidiodendron, Oidium, Paecilomyces, Penicillium, Periconia, Peronospora,Peziza , Phialocephala, Phialophora, Phoma Pithomyces, Polythrincium, Poria incrassata, Pycnidial formers, Pyrenochaeta, Rhinocladiella, Rhizopus, Rusts, Sartorya, Scedosporium, Schizophyllum commune, Scolecobasidium, Scopulariopsis, Sepedonium, Septonema, Serpula lacrimans, Smuts, Sordaria, Spadicoides, Spegazzinia, Spiniger state of Heterobasidion species, Sporobolomyces sp., Sporormiella, Sporothrix, Sporotrichum, Stachybotrys, Stemphylium, Stephanosporium, Syncephalastrum racemosum, Taeniolella, Tetraploa, Thysanophora, Torula, Trichocladium, Trichoderma, Trichosporon, Trichothecium, Ulocladium, Ustilago, Verticillium, Wallemia sebi, Zygomycetes, Zygosporium.


Where did black mold come from?  Black mold is usually connected to several residential sites in the 1990s where long-term water issues in these homes created mold growth that was not detected by the home's occupants.  The occupants got sick but did not know why.  Consistent water issues is key in these cases as all mold is a byproduct of water and moisture, albite typically intermittent water fueled the mold growth.  Constant water allows certain molds to grow, think a wet sticky spore that is highly likely to affect human health.  The owners of these homes eventually found mold, and had issues trying to get insurance companies to pay for mold, and the news media got involved.  In all these cases the color of mold that most stood out was black and the media grabbed onto this, and thus BLACK MOLD was born, so was the phrase Mold is Gold.

Want Expert Mold Advice


Now there is another source of the term black mold, which is the mold, Stachybotrys chartarum, which uniformed people refer to as the black mold, I say uninformed as this mold is actually blackish green in color.  But let's be fair if someone says you have GREEN Mold you think moss or growth outside home spots or blemishes?   So green mold is not as scary as when someone says you have black mold.  Heck if you have black mold run, get it cleaned up. Black mold is really a sales tactic to scare people.  By the way, Stachybotrys chartarum was a type of mold found in the previously referenced 1990s homes that made the news.    So black mold was grabbed by the media, not a scientist, microbiologist, government agency, or other respected unbiased source but rather the media and used by the media to sensationalize a topic.

Don't buy the black mold hype.

what is black mold?


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Why environmental testing is Important?   aka do I need a Phase II?

Mar 13, 2023 10:18:00 AM / by David C Sulock posted in Phase I, AAI All Appropriate Inquiries, Due Diligence, Phase II, Phase I ESA, Phase II GPR, 1031 Exchange, ASTM E1527-21


Go to your doctor and no matter how healthy you look, they take tests. Go to the dentist, and you get x-rays.  Regarding environmental issues again you need to test to verify nothing is present.  If you do not test you have a 100% chance of not finding anything.

Environmental Due Diligence is meant to protect a purchaser, commercial due diligence starts with a Phase I and can lead to a Phase II (testing), which while buyers are aware a Phase II is a possibility, it can also find a problem, so why do a Phase II if finding something is not 100% certain?

The map below which is from the 1940's shows an auto sales storefront in a downtown area.  It lists a 550 Gallon Gasoline UST in front of the building.  Today there are retail stores with a coffee lunch spot.  Really zero current evidence of anything automotive or gas tank related.    So, say you want to buy the property.  Do you assume the gas tank is not there anymore?  No, you scan the area by completing a GPR Survey to make sure it's gone and if it's still there you have owner remove the tank.  

Phase II ESA


How about below, a then and now photo?   Are the tanks still there?  Do you think if the gas tanks leaked, and you owned the property you would be responsible?

Phase II Testing

What if you find that the tank is gone, well you now take soil samples to make sure there is no residual contamination.   And yes if contamination is found, the property owner owns the problem.

Phase II Subsurface soil samplingWhy environmental testing is Important?

People suspect a building component contains asbestos based on appearance and age of building, but you do not know 100% unless you test.  When you are doing a risk assessment or any other form of environmental due diligence, you would assume the component contains asbestos until proven otherwise.  The same goes for PCB's in an electrical transformer.  Assume it contains PCBs until it is labeled otherwise.   So, while a property owner wants to believe these is no contamination, a buyer can't rely on that belief.  Hence the need for a Phase I and sometimes a Phase II which includes testing.Phase II is testing


A case in point an older manufacturing plant (40 years) had a large outdoor compressor.   The compressor at time of sale was only 5 years old, nice and new.   But as an environmental consultant we ask what about the old compressor.  The issue with compressors is they can spit oil and older compressors were known for this.  A REC in the Phase I would be to do a Phase II with soil testing around the 4 sides of the new compressor to look for residual oil from the old compressor.    Yep that is how it works.


We had a group looking to buy a large corner property that had commercial operations in  1930's that could contaminate the property.  The buyers were excited to buy the property.  From decades of experience, we recommended testing prior to purchase.  Their response is below

Thank you for submitting a proposal for our project. As you may know, your company is one of only a few that recommend taking soil samples for analysis.   Obviously, once the analysis is completed, the results would need to be disclosed. Shouldn’t a property owner be concerned that these soil samples might uncover a problem that would need to be addressed further?

Our answer is yes if you find contamination it is reportable and the responsibility of the current owner to pay for.   So there are reasons why a property owner may not want to have a buyer do testing.


If you are buying or selling real estate you need an experienced environmental consultant 0n your side, call the experts


Questions?  Call the experts 888-301-1050


Why environmental testing is Important?




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New Jersey Lead Based Paint Hazard Law

Mar 10, 2023 10:30:00 AM / by David C Sulock


New Jersey Lead Based Paint Hazard Law, aka New Jersey’s Lead Safe Certification.


Bill (S1147) which lead to P.L.2021, c.182 is a law concerning certain lead-based paint hazards in residential rental property.  This legislation takes aim at lead paint and dust, the most common sources of lead exposure in a residence, by creating a new requirement that any rental property in New Jersey built before 1978 be inspected for lead. This closed a loophole in New Jersey's lead testing regulations, which allowed single-family and two-family rental units to go without inspection.   


NJ lead paint law


Many people are referring to this law as , New Jersey’s Lead Safe Certification.


nj lead paint inspection


How does New Jerseys new lead law affect property owners?

In short if you have a rental property (built prior to 1978) that has not undergone lead evaluation, such as receiving a lead free (no lead)  certification you have to have a lead inspection within 2 years of July 22, 2022 (when the law came into effect).   The lead-paint inspections are Visual with dust wipe sampling in certain municipalities where children have been found to have an elevated blood level.    The type of lead inspection is based on the lead blood level of children in the municipality and that information can be found by clicking on the following link Lead Inspection Type by Municipality

Some properties get a pass such as owner occupied and units that are seasonal such as units rented for under 6 months., VRBO rentals are also exempt.  


Questions?   Free Consultation


Are lead paint inspections perpetual or one & done?

Lead is eternal under the law, after your initial inspection, you must reinspect every three years going forward but this is tied to having a current lead safe certificate (lead safe is good for 2 years) and tenant turnover.   Stay with me here.  Say you inspect and get lead safe, well that certification is good for 2 years and you technically do not need to reinspect for 3 years.  BUT if your tenant leaves at say 2 years 1 month, your lead safe certificate has expired and instead of waiting three years you have to reinspect because you have tenant turnover.  

New Jersey Lead Safe Certificate

A flaw of implementation of the law is it is presumed that your property has lead paint if built before 1978 which is when the CPSC banned lead paint, but in New Jersey it was banned in 1971 AND usage was on the decline starting in 1960.  So many properties built between 1960 and 1978 likely do not have lead paint, of course you could buy lead based paint out of state at Rickels or Hechingers or Mr. Good Buys.


Pro Tip:  The law assumes you have lead paint.

If you have not tested for lead based paint and the property is pre-1978 original construction, the law states you must assume it is lead-based paint


So, what does this Lead Safe Certification law require of a property owner?

If you rent pre-1978 property that does not qualify for one of the exemptions, beginning July 22, 2022, you will be required to have a Visual Lead-Paint Inspection or visual and wipe sampling.  You hope to pass the inspection and obtain a Lead Safe Certification, (which is only good for two years). 

This inspection, (visual and/or dust wipe) can only be done by

 1) Municipal local agency inspection program,  Least Likely

2) a NJ DCA certified Lead Evaluation contractor hired by the municipality Not  Likely 


3) the property owner can hire directly a NJ DCA Certified Lead Evaluation contractor to provide the required inspection services. Most Likely 

All of whom will assess a fee for the inspection services.   

Oh and the municipality is required to obtain a fee of $20 per unit inspected which goes into a fund for lead education and remediation.

If no lead-based paint hazards are found during the inspection, the local agency or the DCA certified lead evaluation contractor shall certify the dwelling unit as lead-safe on a form prescribed by the department of Community Affairs.  The form is provided to the owner, municipality and the DCA.


What if a Lead Hazard is Found?

If Lead based paint hazards are found:

1      The owner has to address it and get a reinspection within 60 days.

2.    Commissioner of Community Affairs must be notified.

3.    Section 8 of the, “Lead Hazard control Assistance Act” if Lead Hazards are identified in a two or three family pre-1978 rental property, the law requires the remaining units in the property also be visually and/or dust wipe sampled.


The Rub


If you find a lead paint hazard, well you have to more intensively inspect the other units if they exist

Additionally, if the lead evaluation entity (municipal or private) finds that a lead-based paint hazard exists in a dwelling unit upon conducting the inspection pursuant to this law, the lead evaluation contractor or permanent local agency shall notify the Commissioner of Community Affairs. Upon reviewing the finding in accordance with Section 8 of the, “Lead Hazard control Assistance Act” if Lead Hazards are identified in a two or three family pre-1978 rental property, the law requires the remaining units in the property also be visually and/or dust wipe sampled.

How you address lead paint is either interim controls or abatement.

The law further requires that “upon completion of correcting any Lead-Based paint hazard identified during the visual Lead Safe Certification Inspection”, the Lead evaluation contractor or permanent local agency shall conduct a follow up inspection (visual &/or dust wipes) of the unit to certify that the hazard no longer exists.   Additional fees apply.

To utilize NJ resources most appropriately, the law has implemented a two-tier public protection inspection requirement.  If your rental property is located in a municipality where more than 3% of the children 6 years of age and younger in the community have a blood lead level of equal to or greater than 5ug/dl (CDC old Reference Value) the local agency or NJ DCA Certified Lead Evaluation Contractor shall inspect for lead based paint hazards through dust wipe sampling in addition to a visual inspection for deteriorated painted surfaces.  

Owners will be required to provide copies of all Lead Safe Certifications (per unit) and leases to the DCA inspector during their 5-year multiple dwelling inspection.  Property owners will be required to provide copies of a current or newly issued Lead Safe Certificate to new residents specific for the unit they will be renting as part of the lease documents. If a resident resides within the unit during the Re-Lead Safe Certification renewal cycle (3 year) the resident must sign a copy of the Lead Safe Certification and such documentation must be maintained  

Failure to comply with NJ Lead Safe Certification requirements can incur fines of up to $1000 per unit per week.

What to do to get ready for compliance?  First do you meet one of the following Exemptions? (1) the property has been certified to be free of lead-based paint, – (2) the property was originally constructed during or after 1978 , – (3) the rental unit is in a multiple dwelling that has been registered with the DCA as a multiple dwelling for at least 10 years, either under the current or a previous owner, and has no outstanding lead violations from the most recent cyclical inspection performed on the multiple dwelling under the “Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law,” – (4) is a single-family or two-family seasonal rental dwelling which is rented for less than 6 months duration each year by tenants that do not have consecutive lease renewals; or  -(5) has a valid lead-safe certification issued in accordance with this section.


Confused yet?

Questions?   Free Consultation



Lead paint inspection





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Environmental Due Diligence in Commercial Real Estate Transactions

Mar 8, 2023 10:09:20 AM / by David C Sulock posted in Phase I, Property Transaction Screens, AAI All Appropriate Inquiries, Phase II, Phase I ESA, Phase II GPR, 1031 Exchange, ASTM E1527-21


There are inherent risks in life and in particular when you purchase something.   Warranties on products including cars are meant to balance the risk.  But when you buy a commercial property, you are buying more than the land and any improvements, you are buying any environmental issues past or present unless specified otherwise.  (There are sites that have government permitted contamination, that is a restriction on the property for sure. but it is s defined environmental liability). 


Environmental Due Diligence in Commercial Real Estate


I am referring to the purchase of a property that has undiscovered environmental issues.  How you avoid buying a contaminated property is by performing Due Diligence such as a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment.  More about Phase I ESA Click Here.


As this article states when should you be concerned about environmental issues on a commercial property?

The safe answer is on every commercial property that you have not completed your own due diligence.

Yes, that downtown property you want to buy may have been an auto garage, dry cleaner, part of a rail spur, I've seen tanneries (Tanneries are where animal hides are tanned, and the wastes generated from tanneries are considered a pollutant to the environment and has potential to pollute both soil and water because of the use toxic chemical constituents in the tanning process)

environmental issues with commercial properties

The rub of downtown areas is they were the center of commerce, which can cause pollution long before environmental regulations became the norm.   Buying close to a rail line?  Well rail roads caused contamination and land was often built up with historic fill.  (Historic Fill material was commonly used to raise the topographic elevation of properties.    The fill material is composed of non-indigenous material… which may have been contaminated prior to emplacement and is in no way connected with the operations at the location of emplacement and which includes, without limitation, construction debris, dredge spoils, incinerator residue, demolition debris, fly ash, or non-hazardous solid waste). Because of the nature of its composition, historic fill material is a widespread concern for many property owners and potential property purchasers.    In short, the property can have at the time of placement legal contamination, which today is no longer legal.

Yes, none of this is fair.  There are other warning signs when you buy a commercial property even when you perform due diligence, I will run down a couple of items buyers should be concerned about.


1.  A Phase I includes interview and questionnaire with the owner who is typically the most knowledgeable party.    When this can't be accomplished you have important data gaps, which may be intentional on part of the seller.


2.   The owner has no prior environmental reports, meaning they didn't do their own Phase I or will not supply their report.  Want to know why an owner may not want to be interviewed for a Phase I, their lack of due diligence can be a driver.  


The historical map below shows auto sales at a downtown property, and it also lists 550 gallon gasoline tank in the street.  That tank and contamination belongs to the property and will only be known if you do due diligence. 

Commercial property environmental study

3.  The Phase I leads to a Phase II, which is testing and can absolutely open up a can of proverbial worms.  If you test you have a chance of finding a problem.  No testing?  Well 100% chance of finding nothing.  But the rub is when the owner denies or limits testing.  For example, we had a site where both soil and groundwater testing were warranted.  The owner did not want groundwater tested because the property had municipal water.  Groundwater is typically the 1st water bearing zone on a property, a good average is 16' to 20' deep.  You are not drinking this water ever, but if this water is contaminated, well it belongs to the owner.   My point being sellers will come up with some nugget of reason why we do not need to test, which is irrelevant in the context of environmental due diligence.


Phase I Due Diligence


4.   Owner provides reason why due diligence is irrelevant (remember buyer pays for the work not the seller).  Case in point client buying a former appliance store, which was a former laundromat.   Seller wanted no testing because refrigerators and microwaves are not an issue and a laundromat, well that's just dirty cloths.  Fast forward we test groundwater water and find dry cleaning solvents.  Conclusion, the laundromat did dry cleaning.  Saved our client $165,000.


Commercial Property Purchase Pro Tips

Start your due diligence and do not consider Due Diligence to be a hand stamp, because if you find an issue it will take time address it.

Understand that your proposed settlement date was likely set PRIOR to performing Due Diligence.  When Due Diligence finds an issue settlement could be pushed back weeks, months even years. 




Expert Environmental Advice 888-301-1050

Phase I ESA





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Commercial Real Estate Environmental Assessments

Feb 28, 2023 10:06:00 AM / by David C Sulock


Environmental Assessments, Environmental Audits, and Environmental Due Diligence are performed to identify any environmental concerns that need to be addressed before a property settlement occurs.   Environmental due diligence is the assessment of known and potential environmental liabilities, unknown or not disclosed, associated with real estate.   It is an integral part of any commercial real estate transaction. The environmental audit is meant to protect all parties involved in the transaction, including the lender, but contamination devalues the asset. Without an environmental assessment, the buyer buys contamination and owns the problem even if you know it is present or not. Sellers do not want to enter into litigation or any dispute after a sale occurs due to contamination being found.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions concerning environmental site assessments from 30 years of Due Diligence experience:

  • Why do I need to do environmental due diligence?
  • When is environmental due diligence required?
  • Who pays for the environmental audit?
  • What is involved in the environmental audit?
  • Can we test immediately?
  • How long does an environmental assessment take?
  • How much will it cost?
  • If I am paying cash, do I need an environmental audit?

 Those are very common questions and we even get them from groups that already have substantial real estate holdings.   The answer to each question depends on the property.   Some sites require more due diligence than others, industrial sites would demand more extensive evaluation while buying a parcel of land from a closed church would require less. I do not reference a downtown storefront as getting a hall pass on due diligence as downtowns were the epicenter of commerce and there are plenty of contaminated sites along the main streets USA.

 Why do I need to do environmental due diligence?

Before environmental regulations, pollution was legal so to speak. The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), aka “Superfund.” Gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EPA which was created on December 2, 1970, by President Nixon the authority to pursue a private party or current or past owners or operators of contaminated property for costs associated with environmental cleanup.  CERCLA holds owners responsible for cleaning up contamination on their property, even if they did not cause or contribute to the problem. An important feature is that CERCLA liability is joint and several meaning any liable party may be required to clean up all the contamination, even though that party only caused a small amount of the overall contamination. It is not 100% fair, but it is meant to catch up on past pollution that occurred prior to the regulation. If polluters knew they were polluting is open to debate.

When is environmental due diligence required?

After reading how liability is assigned to what our clients would call an innocent landowner, every property could benefit from an environmental audit prior to sale.

 Commercial Real Estate Environmental Assessments

Who pays for the environmental audit?

The party that receives the most protection pays for the environmental study, which is typically the purchaser. Not many banks contract for environmental audits, Phase I ESA, on behalf of the borrower, and this cost is passed through to the borrower.

There are cases where the Phase I environmental Audit is split between buyers and sellers.

There are also cases where an owner contracts for the environmental audit to address any environmental issues prior to listing the property for sale, these are not common, but it is safe to say when this occurs the property sells faster.

 What is involved in the environmental audit?

There are varying types of environmental audits, the most common is a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) which is formatted by ASTM to standardize the audit.

A Phase I ESA is an investigation into past and current ownership and uses of the property to assess the possible existence of contamination.  Hundreds of pages of data are collected for each site, each site is physically evaluated, and knowledgeable parties are interviewed, that is the nutshell explanation. A large office building today could have been a lumber, coal, and fuel yard (true site) in 1910.  

In layman’s terms, the purpose of any environmental audit is to identify potential environmental conditions that may affect the property or trigger liability to a property owner.

Can we test immediately?

All environmental audits start with research and no testing is performed as you first need to evaluate the site to determine if it is a target-rich environment for testing. The referenced coal fuel yard required testing where materials were stored and testing also found buried petroleum tanks in the parking lot.

If a site is deemed without any issue, you never proceed with any testing. Conversely, a site where historic suspect contamination may be present would warrant testing. A small apartment building on a large lot found operation in the 1890s that left contamination on the site the owner had to address to sell the property to a developer. and helps to determine whether further due diligence is needed and whether a Phase II ESA must be conducted.

How long does an environmental assessment take?

On a basic level, all environmental audits require acquiring historical data for review.   The thoroughness of the acquisition of this historical data adds time and if a site visit is part of the environmental audit that must be arranged.   Allocate 3 weeks for an environmental audit to provide a written report which may say no testing is required or we found multiple areas on the property that require testing. Add testing to the environmental evaluation and you can be months from the finish line.

Be aware that if you get an environmental report within a few days it will be far less thorough than a report taking weeks, that is a fact.  There are many reports we review that was issued and were incomplete due to the consultant waiting on historical data to be obtained. These reports are incomplete and now require a secondary report that may contain data that conflicts with the initial incomplete report. Follow me on this you can’t expect fast and thorough on all sites.

  How much will an environmental audit cost?

The baseline environmental audit is a Phase I ESA that runs between $2,200 to $3,000 depending on the complexity of the site. Be aware as environmental consultants, we do a cursory evaluation on prospective sites to see if the site is going to be a time suck (aka $3,000.00 range) or closer to $2,200 for the average site. Also, know that the cost of acquiring data is set for a single address site, larger sites, and multiple addresses incur higher costs for data acquisition., so you can expect larger parcels to be in between these two costs due to time and data acquisition expense.

 If I am paying cash, do I need an environmental audit?

Generally speaking, performing an environmental audit such as Phase I is important for every commercial property purchase. A Phase I assessment is performed by an environmental professional that analyzes the likelihood of contamination. If you do not need a mortgage and are an environmental professional perhaps you are qualified to not do the environmental.

Know that lenders require an assessment to protect their investment, not to protect you.

Buyer assumes financial risk by not conducting an ESA on a property before settlement. If the environmental audit cost and findings are not within the budget of the purchase of the property, the deal may not be viable.

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What is a Cistern?                                       

Feb 16, 2023 10:30:00 AM / by David C Sulock


Have a home older than 80 years?  You may have a cistern.

What is a Cistern?  A cistern is a buried tank, commonly made of brick or metal, and is designed to store water. Cisterns are typically designed for capturing and storing rainwater.  Cisterns are not cesspools that are for septic.

Today some people use rain barrels, so you can think of a cistern as a buried rain barrel.

cistern closure

The water collected in cisterns historically was utilized for two purposes: domestic use and consumption.

Domestic uses of the water are flushing toilets and watering landscaping.  Since water stored is from rainwater the owner of a cistern could reduce the costs associated with the delivery of potable water from utilities.  It could also supplement water from wells on a site that people would use for human consumption.  

Questions? 888-301-1050

You may find you have a cistern by constant settlement in your yard like the photo below or by doing a GPR survey to scan for voids.  GPR Survey many residential due diligence oil tank sweeps find cisterns when GPR is used.    

evaluating a sink hole

what is a cistern?This cistern was found from the settlement in the photo to the right.   The cistern lost some integrity allowing collapse in a section of the walls, which allowed soils to seep into the cistern void.  This home was circa 1925.    The owner wanted the liability removed so the cistern was filled in place as it had not been used in years.  There are several feet of water at the bottom of this cistern and a person or animal falling into this would hurt.

Curren has over 25 years of experience in decommissioning and abandoning buried tanks.  We recently completed a tank sweep for a home sale.  The GPR survey located a buried metal tank behind the garage which was either an old gas tank, oil tank, or cistern.  Turns out it was a cistern.

Cistern closure and abandonment

cistern abandonment

Ground Penetrating Radar Surveys for Cisterns

Call the experts   888-301-1050

What is a cistern?


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How Long Does a Phase I ESA take to complete?

Feb 8, 2023 9:50:00 AM / by David C Sulock


If you are buying a property for commercial use, you need a Phase I ESA to protect your financial interests in the property. Unfortunately, not every building was for sale when you were looking, so your search took months not weeks to find the right property.  To hasten the purchase, you are paying cash and avoid any bank delays,  but intend to get a mortgage after purchase.  The seller wants to settle fast, as they have owned the property for 26 years and are ready to move on.  Your attorney wants to protect your interests with Phase I.   You want to know when should the settlement date be.  So let's do a quick rundown of the timeline for Phase I.

How Long Does a Phase I ESA take to complete?

Most Phase I's can be properly completed in 2 to 3 weeks. Some Phase I's can take 4 to 6 weeks.

Some Phase I's take even longer.

Why is the time spread different with each Phase (I,II, III)?

  1. We start working on Phase I within 24 hours after a client engages Curren.  (Engage meaning signed contract, & payment).  This is the industry standard.
  2. Part of starting the Phase I is acquiring historical records on the property.  Some of these records are purchased by companies that sell such records, it can take a few days to acquire these records.
  3. Another aspect of a Phase I is requesting public records from local, county, and state agencies, these records are public records and can take five (5) to nine (9) business days to obtain from the government agencies.  You are dealing with the government, so it takes time.
  4. There is also an owner interview and questionnaire as part of the process.  If the owner is unavailable, like in Cuba for two (2) weeks, well that delays this aspect.  Sure, we can interview a less knowledgeable party like the employee who worked at the property for 2 years, but wouldn't you rather have us interview the person who has 25 years of experience with the property?
  5. On week two after contracting for the Phase I, you do your site visit, because by now you have obtained and reviewed historical records so you know about the property but need to walk the site to evaluate operations, chemical storage in short things that could affect the property on an environmental basis.  The historical research is looking at potential past environmental impacts to the property.
  6. End of the second week or week three (3), the Phase I is complete, it gets peer-reviewed, digitized, and submitted.  You can also ride a unicorn to the settlement table.

Call Curren Today

What delays the Phase I?

Government records, perhaps you find there are 5,000 pages of documents at the state environmental agency, and it will take four (4) weeks to get those files out of storage and no the owner doesn't have any of these records. 

The owner delays our site inspection and doesn't want to get interviewed, which happens all the time.  Most people who bought a property skipped the Phase I and are not too keen on you doing an environmental assessment on the property.

The Phase I finds an Area of Concern (AOC) or a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) that is not properly documented.  Oh, and we hear owners say how EPA was on site and checked everything.   Well, if the EPA is federal and if they came on site to evaluate anything, go buy another property because the issues are so bad on this site you need a Federal agency involved whereas the state agency would manage environmental issues on almost all sites.  Been doing environmental consulting since the 1990's I can count on 1 hand how many EPA-involved sites I have dealt with.   So these open issues require further evaluation, perhaps even testing, add a month or more.


How Long Does a Phase I ESA take to complete?

Lastly, the Phase I finds a suspect issue that warrants a Phase II (testing).  It happens, it happens a lot, now someone has to spend more money to look for a problem and even more money if a problem requires remediation.     For example, a client is buying a building next to their own office building.  Phase I finds an old UST owner that said it was EPA approved (it was not).   The tank has to be removed and tested and oh it leaked and the tank hasn't been used in 15 years, yes owner forgot to mention it in the interview.  The realtor knew but also said it was all closed out and said this with a straight face and zero documents to support this claim.  Phase I finds a gasoline plume that appears to extend onto the property.  Legal, but the buyer wants to build another office building and this contamination can warrant a vapor barrier as part of the construction.  This adds cost and devalues the property for buyers who may want a concession in a price reduction.

Many companies will not tell you the downside of environmental work, but at Curren we believe in managing client expectations.  Sure, we do many Phase I reports in 2 weeks flat but many are not and by the time you call us you likely already have a due diligence end date AND settlement date,  Both of which were made before any environmental due diligence was performed. 

Call Curren Today

How Long Does a Phase I ESA take to complete?


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How do I manage Lead Paint in My Home?  aka Do I need a Lead Paint Inspection?

Jan 31, 2023 9:08:00 AM / by David C Sulock


Lead paint was ubiquitous because it was durable, resisted moisture, and dried fast, two highly prized attributes for paint.  The problem is lead paint was demined that human consumption of lead, via dust or paint chips, generated by deteriorating lead paint was a serious health hazard and in 1978 the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned lead in paint for residential use.  For the record most similar developed nations banned lead paint decades before the United States did.

Managing lead paint

Unless you complete a lead paint inspection, which is a surface-by-surface inspection of building material for lead paint, you assume that lead paint is present.    More about lead paint inspections can be found at  Lead Paint Inspection.

So you test to know 100% if and where lead paint is present or you assume paint or stain is lead-based.   


lead paint inspections

You can also have a limited lead paint inspection done when you are having renovation performed.  Limited area-specific lead paint inspections cost less because they take less time to complete. Questions?

Questions? 888-301-1050

Why should you care about lead paint?

  1. Kids consume lead paint as it has a sweet flavor, and lead paint has long-term effects on children.  Lead doesn't leave your body.
  2. When you renovate the lead paint dust that was generated from deteriorating lead paint, well it's lead-contaminated dust, and yes you are inhaling it, which means your children are inhaling lead. 
  3. Hazard control is all about controlling your exposure pathway.  You don't want any chemicals where kids can come in contact with them, because you know chemicals are hazardous.   If you know where lead paint is in your home you are better prepared to manage it.
  4. At Curren we recognize the risk of lead and care, so we discount the cost of lead paint inspections for residential sites to encourage people to perform the inspection. 

The contractor working on the lead paint must also be certified.

Any renovation, repair, or painting (RRP) project in a pre-1978 home or building can easily create dangerous lead dust. EPA requires that RRP (Renovation, Repair, Painting) projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, childcare facilities, and preschools built before 1978 be performed by lead-safe certified contractors. Generally, EPA’s Lead RRP rule does not apply to homeowners doing RRP projects in their own homes. However, it does apply if you rent all or part of your home, operate a child care center in your home or if you buy, renovate, and sell homes for profit (i.e., a house flipper).

Learn About Lead Paint Inspection - 

Lead Paint FAQ

Lead Paint Inspections


residential lead paint inspections



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New Jersey’s Lead Safe Certification

Jan 26, 2023 1:09:00 PM / by David C Sulock


The New Jersey Lead Safe law is making lead a concern for rental units, both tenants and landlords.    NJ’s New lead-based paint law went into effect on July 22, 2022, and affects ALL pre-1978 rental properties.   So if you are a landlord of a unit built before 1978 and you have not received a lead paint designation, you are subject to the law.  The law is also being called the Lead Based Paint Hazard Law.


New Jersey’s Lead Safe Certification         Lead Paint Inspections


All single-family, two-family, and multiple-rental dwellings must be inspected.


This new lead law is being referred to as, New Jersey’s Lead Safe Certification and requires lead-paint inspections, visual &/or dust wipes on all nonexempt rental properties at tenant turnover or before July 22, 2024This means 1st inspection must be completed by July 22, 2024.   The inspections are perpetual. A lead-safe certificate is good for two (2) years but can last as long as three (3) years before a reinspection is needed if the tenant remains in the unit from the 1st 2 years of issuance of the lead-safe certificate.


 What does the Lead Safe Certification lead law require of a property owner?

 If you rent a pre-1978 property that does not qualify for one of the exemptions, beginning July 2022, you will be required at a minimum to have a visual lead-paint inspection.  When we say the minimum, some towns have children with elevated lead blood levels, so units in these municipalities also require that lead dust wipe samples be obtained as part of the inspection.


 Visual Inspection:  Just as at sounds like, visual lead inspections look for hazards.  How does one identify lead-based paint hazards?  Lead-based paint hazards is deteriorating lead-based paint peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, or damaged paint. Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is scraped, sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can reside on surfaces and objects that people touch.


We examine all painted building components for deteriorated paint or visible surface dust, debris, or residue. We look for paint chips or dust from painting activities that were not cleaned up and paint residue on floors.


Who can perform lead inspections for rental units?


The lead inspection can only be done by  

1) Municipal local agency inspection program,  

2) NJ DCA-certified Lead Evaluation contractor hired by the municipality


3) the property owner can hire directly a NJ DCA Certified Lead Evaluation contractor to provide the required inspection services. 


No matter who the lead licensed individual is, there is a fee for the lead inspection. The lead inspection fee is outside of the $20 fee the lead law requires the municipality to collect on a per-unit basis.


Visual Lead Inspections

Landlords can hope for the best outcome from the lead inspection, which is that no lead-based paint hazards are found during the inspection, and the local agency or the DCA-certified lead evaluation contractor can certify the dwelling unit as lead-safe on a form prescribed by the department of Community Affairs.


A failure of the lead inspection would be that lead hazards are found, then the property owner must address the hazard.   Properly addressed by means of either lead-based paint abatement or lead-based paint hazard control methods.   Additionally, if the lead evaluation entity (municipal or private) finds that a lead-based paint hazard exists in a dwelling unit upon conducting the inspection under this law, the lead evaluation contractor or permanent local agency shall notify the Commissioner of Community Affairs.


The photo below is a friction surface. Old door, multiple coats of paint and freshly painted.  When you open and close the door the door rubs, the newer white paint has rubbed off and an older layer of paint (green) is visible.  This would fail an inspection.

 NJ Lead paint inspection

Lead hazards that are addressed require a lead re-inspection. Specifically, the lead law states that “upon completion of correcting any lead-based paint hazard identified during the visual Lead Safe Certification Inspection”, the Lead evaluation contractor or permanent local agency shall conduct a follow-up inspection (visual &/or dust wipes) of the unit to certify that the hazard no longer exists.  


The lead law places documentation and notification requirements on property owners. Owners are required to provide copies of all Lead Safe Certifications (per unit) and leases to the DCA inspector during their five (5) year multiple dwelling inspection.  Property owners are also required to provide copies of a current or newly issued Lead Safe Certificate to new residents specific to the unit they will be renting as part of the lease documents.


If a resident resides within the unit during the re-lead safe certification renewal cycle for three (3) years, the resident must sign a copy of the Lead Safe Certification.   This documentation must be maintained by the owner and made available during future DCA inspections.   Compliance is mandatory under the law failure to follow failure to comply can incur fines of up to $1000 per unit per week.


What to do to get ready for compliance? 


Call Curren Environmental, we have been consulting on environmental issues in real estate since the 1990s.

Call Curren Today



Do you think your property is exempt from lead inspections? The property must meet the following criteria: 

  1. The property has been certified to be free of lead-based paint,
  2. The property was originally constructed during or after 1978,
  3. The rental unit is in a multiple dwelling that has been registered with the DCA as a multiple dwelling for at least 10 years either under the current or a previous owner and has no outstanding lead violations from the most recent cyclical inspection performed on the multiple dwelling under the “Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law,”
  4. Is a single-family or two-family seasonal rental dwelling that is rented for less than 6 months duration each year by tenants that do not have consecutive lease renewals; VRBO rentals fit this definition as long as the lease is shorter than 6 months per rental.
  5. Dwellings that have been certified to be free of lead-based paint under N.J.A.C. 5:17-3.6(b).
  6. The unit is owner-occupied.

lead inspection company 

Pro Tip

If you have not tested for lead-based paint and the property is pre-1978 original construction, the law states you must assume it is lead-based paint.




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