As more properties change hands through non-traditional means, environmental lawyers are frequently confronted with situations in which current owners purchased environmentally impaired properties without the benefit of liability exceptions resulting from a 2002 change in federal environmental law. As a result, liabilities otherwise avoided are now landing in unsuspecting owners’ laps. The modifications were not widely publicized and thus, real estate practitioners may be unaware that some clients may qualify for the exceptions with a bit of pre-acquisition and post-closing work. Depending on the extent of environmental impairment, the extra effort may prove worthwhile if a claim for remediation is avoided. What follows is a primer on the 2002 changes and how to protect clients using those exceptions to liability.
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