If a property you’re thinking of purchasing is known to have been used for commercial or industrial purposes, is entered in one of the registries referred to above, or shows any other sign of possible contamination, you should carefully consider the risks involved. As you cannot claim ignorance later on, you should try to include a clause in the purchase agreement that protects you against undue l... read more
The authorities have instructed me to carry out investigations and cleanup measures for my property. What do I need to bear in mind in complying with this requirement?
The yardstick for contaminated-site remediation is hazard prevention. And because the principle of proportionality also needs to be observed in such cases, the officially imposed measures and the consequences thereof for the responsible party need to be reasonable relative to the hazard being averted. To this end, the measures that are carried out should be those most suitable (i.e. necessary) whe... read more
Where can I obtain assistance for legal, certification, and analytic matters pertaining to site contamination?
As a government agency, we cannot of course recommend any specific source of such assistance. However, suffice it to say that in choosing an attorney, make sure that he or she specializes in the relevant field and has references to prove it. Such references can take the form of Sachkundenachweise, reference lists, Sachverständigenzulassungen pursuant to the BBodSchV or Bundesgewerbeordnung regulat... read more
Does the UBA collect data concerning specific instances of actual or suspected site contamination? What tasks does the UBA carry out in this regard and which services does it offer?
In its capacity as a higher level federal agency in the area of activity of the Federal Ministry of the Environment (BMU), the UBA is in charge of carrying out special tasks of nationwide importance. Consequently, and pursuant to the UBA-Errichtungsgesetz (UBA Founding Act), we have no powers in respect of either implementation (particularly in matters that fall within the jurisdiction of regional... read more
As a property owner, am I legally responsible for soil contamination that I did not cause? Who is liable in the event contamination that I myself did not cause is detected on my property?
When you purchase a piece of property, you also assume responsibility for the property related rights and duties. This includes so called Zustandsstörerhaftung für Kontaminationen auf dem Grundstück (status-disturbance liability for property contamination, i.e. liability accruing to the current property owner). It makes no difference which party originally caused the contamination. In carrying out... read more
When it comes to liability for site contamination, do I need to be wary of commercial and industrial properties in general?
You do in fact need to be wary – at least initially – of any property that was formally used for commercial or industrial purposes. In some cases, you may need to conduct an investigation to confirm or allay such suspicions. You can start by conducting your own research and/or surveys, which do not require any technical investigations and may help you to determine whether your initial suspicions w... read more
You should always begin by contacting the competent lower-level soil conservation authorities, which can usually be found at the Umweltverwaltung office of your Landkreis or kreisfreie Stadt. These offices are best equipped to handle such matters, as they are familiar with the relevant conditions and particularities. If you are unable to obtain the help you need from these sources, contact the rel... read more
Where can I obtain information concerning prior uses of a piece of property? Is such information readily available?
Reliable information in this regard is available from Altlastenkataster or Verdachtsflächenkataster registries. If your property is listed in such a register, it will also contain initial indications as to the type of use involved. The relevant authorities are required by law to provide you with such information, if you are the owner of the property in question or are interested in purchasing it.... read more
The competent lower-level soil conservation authorities, which can usually be found at the Umweltverwaltung office of your Landkreis or your kreisfreie Stadt, maintain a so called Altlastenkataster (site contamination registry) or Verdachtsflächenkataster (registry of suspected contaminated sites). These offices are required by law to provide you with the relevant information in response to a legi... read more
Site contamination and soil conservation services, plus additional information