VIC Vacant Land Purchase - Buried Oil Tank Removal Costs Claim

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23 July 2014
We purchased a normal 700 sq metre so called vacant land block on a suburban estate about 3 years ago. But have only just been able to commence the building of our house. Our builder un-covered an old empty large oil tank on the property and some associated pipework. This immediately stopped the house works with the builder refusing to go back on site until the tank was removed. We contacted the agent who sold us the house and he contacted the seller of the land and agreed to meet the agent on site. After weeks the seller of the land advised us we had to talk to his conveyancer with all regard to this matter. Our house was going to start to cost us money if the build did not recommence soon and we felt we had a duty of care to our neighbours to ensure the tank was empty and removed as soon as possible. So we decided to arrange the safe removal of the tank itself. The tank was empty with just oil residue inside and was safely removed.

The buried tank left a large hole right in the middle of our foundations. If we had have known about the tank before we started the house build we could have removed it and placed the house over just a few minutes and this would have saved us having to pay for concrete piers as the hole was in a key position on the foundation of the house. We put a claim into the land seller through his conveyancer (as per his request)for costs associated with the safe removal of the tank and for the concrete piers. After 3 months and numerous calls, emails and faxes , and following advice that we could take the matter to Consumer Affairs Victoria and the VCAT but needed the sellers latest address and phone number for the application forms we received an email reply stating :
'As discussed I have referred the matter to a Solicitor who has in turn sougth the learned opinion of a Barrister she frequently refers to. Both Solicitor and Barrister are of the same opinion that my clients
actions are absent of any fraud or element of misleading or deceptive conduct under legislation'.

We have not stated that we stated that their clients actions are absent of any fraud or element of misleading or deceptive conduct.

Is the fact that the conveyancer believes their client's actions are absent of any fraud or element of misleading or deceptive conduct under legislation' relevant? The land was sold as 'vacant land' . Surely whether he knew about the buried tank or not is irrelevant; isn't he still liable for the costs. The land a former land farm had a house on it and he would have had to have the house and associated buildings & any buried works removed prior to the land sub division. We were never told that our land was part of the site that the house and working farm buildings were on - we found this out ourselves just recently as we could see buildings on google earth.

Has anyone else had the misfortune to have this happen to them? Can I force either the agent or the conveyancer to give me the current details of the land seller so I can put a claim into VCAT?

Appreciate any help or feedback.

Amanda E

Well-Known Member
9 April 2014
If I were you, I'd push the agent or conveyancer to giver you the seller's current details. Otherwise, they'd be withholding information for a VCAT matter.

If you haven't already, perhaps contact Consumer Affairs Victoria for some practical advice. (Free advice and conciliation on domestic building disputes is available from Building Advice and Conciliation Victoria (BACV) – a service jointly delivered by Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) and the VBA.)
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