Moving-In...Next To A Toxic Waste Site
There has been a toxic waste site in Gainesville for more than a quarter of a century, so why are people still moving in next door?
They say they simply didn't know.
The law is clear, home sellers are supposed to disclose any hazards to their property. But that doesn't make it any easier to figure out who is to blame.
James Miller said, "I was lied to and misled."
Miller moved his family from New York to Gainesville in June 2007. Paying $192,000 for a home on Northwest 37th Place, just blocks from the Cabot Koppers Superfund site.
Miller says the realtor who showed and sold him the home, never told him about the infamous nearby property. He said, "How would I know? I lived, I was outside of Albany, New York and I came down in good faith."
Miller says the house was completely inspected before closing, per city requirements, but no mention of Koppers made it into that report either. He said, "We never would have purchased this house."
According to the 1985 Florida Supreme Court ruling in the case Johnson v Davis, the seller has to disclose defects that will affect the property value, which are not obvious to the buyer. But there is some debate over what constitutes a material defect that must be reported, versus just a stigma.
President of Bosshardt Realty and Bosshardt Property Management, Aaron Bosshardt said, "If it's something that's a stigma, you are not required to disclose and you would potentially be damaging the seller or the owner of the property by disclosing it."
Bosshardt says his company policy is to include an environmental disclaimer, but there is confusion about how extensive the contamination from Koppers is and what properties are affected. He said, "It can be a gray area, but they have the power not to make it a gray area. Certainly if the EPA or the State of Florida or the county or the city says there are health issues for people in these properties...Then that becomes, I believe, you know that's an official organization giving that determination."
The Gainesville/Alachua County Association of Realtors includes a contract addendum warning about the superfund site on all residential transactions, but every area realtor and certainly every seller doesn't necessarily do the same. And some people really may not have the information to disclose.
Bosshardt said, "Do they know about it? Do they have the facts? Is there enough community education?"
Alachua County Commissioners plan to send a letter to local realtors, informing them of the facts about Koppers and the disclosure law.
But for The Millers, it's too late.
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