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Houses in Vancouver have Oil Tanks?

Up until the 1960’s most houses in Vancouver used oil burning furnaces. These furnaces had underground oil storage tanks periodically filled by tanker trucks. When Vancouver began the switch to gas furnaces in the 1960’s, oil furnaces were removed and the underground oil storage tanks that fed them were either removed (best practice) or decommissioned.

If decommissioned, the tanks, often made of galvanized steel were supposed to be completely drained of oil.

I’m Buying a House in Vancouver. Why should I care about Underground Oil Tanks? IT CAN COST ME THOUSANDS?!

Unfortunately, in many instances these tanks were NOT drained and over time these underground oil storage tanks began to leak oil.

This leaked oil is combustible (ie it can cause an Explosion or a Fire) and can contaminate soil and water not only on the lot of house where it is located but of surrounding houses. If the Oil Tank is leaking this can create a HUGE liability for a home owner or the Buyer of such a property.

In Vancouver, if an underground oil tank is found on a property the oil tank has to be removed IMMEDIATELY and all the soil contaminated by the leaking oil has to be removed by a qualified Oil Tank Removal/Soil Remediation firm. This is not cheap! I have heard of nightmare contamination scenarios costing up to $100,000 or more.

But What Can Happen if I Try to Buy A House in Vancouver with an Underground Oil Storage Tank?

  1. Can’t get a mortgage!? If an oil tank is found, a potential buyer may not be able to get fire insurance on the property. If a potential buyer can’t get fire insurance, they will not be able to get a mortgage. Mortgage lenders will not lend on properties that can’t get fire insurance, because of the risk of a total loss in the event of a fire. If you remove subjects on a house and then an oil tank is found and the seller is not able/willing to remove the tank, you the buyer may not be able to buy the property because you can’t get a mortgage. This is when it gets very expensive and stressful.
  2. On The Hook for THOUSANDS of DOLLARS of Environment Remediation!? Even worse would be to buy the house only to realize your lot and the neighbours lots have been contaminated due to an Underground Oil Storage Tank. This remediation will be YOUR responsibility as the home owner. Have a look at the British Columbia Government Fact Sheet on Underground Oil Storage Tanks below for more details.


If you’re buying a house in Vancouver, ALWAYS get an Oil Tank inspection. Often, an oil tank inspector will not charge for an inspection (They make money removing the tank) and if there is a charge as of January 2011, the average seems to be around $150. If an oil tank is found the Seller is responsible for having the tank removed and any contamination remediation and you the Buyer are safe.

Buying a House in Vancouver? Check out these Great Videos with lots of great Home Buying Tips!

BC Government Underground Oil Tank Fact Sheet

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