So you have been following previous posts about environmental liability associated with real estate and because you are a renter, you have ignored it all because you don’t own it. Come on, be honest, you think you don’t have any problems right? Well, you might have lots of problems, but, maybe, just maybe, you should re-read the previous posts to figure out if you can insulate yourself. Of course that is the purpose of this post, so you could just read this instead.
Do, Re, Mi.
So let’s start at the beginning, which is always a good place to start (a reference to the Sound of Music). The law imposes liability upon, among others, current “owners and operators” of a facility. An operator is one who is “operating such facility.” In plain terms, that means a lessee.
Now, CERCLA is a joint and several liability statute without regard to fault. This means, with respect to the current owners or operators, that just the act of being there may impose liability for the clean up of the property, even if you didn’t cause it. So, if you lease a property, you could be liable for the past transgressions of previous owners and lessees. That could be problematic, so what’s a renter to do. (more…)