Buying a Property on Contaminated Land? What you need to do

When buying a property it can be scary to find out that your new home is built on contaminated land. For most buyers this might scare them off from buying the property all together, however just because it is flagged that your property has been potentially built on contaminated land, doesn’t always mean it was.

You'll find out whether or not your property has been built on, or nearby contaminated land when you order your Environmental Search through your solicitor as part of the conveyancing process (read what searches you order when buying a home). 

If it’s been flagged in your Environmental Report that your property is at risk of being built on contaminated land, then this article explains what to do.


How do you find out if your land is contaminated?

One of the property searches that solicitors advise their clients to get is the Environmental Search. The report covers a number of useful environmental issues that can affect your property including flooding, ground stability, radon and contaminated land.

In the majority of cases the report will show no risk, however you’ll need to do more investigations if the environmental report states:

"Our environmental consultants, Argyll Environmental Ltd [or other provider of Environmental Search], have identified a significant risk of contaminated land within the vicinity of the property."

If your report states this then you must seek further advice from your solicitor and look to find out from the council whether the land your property is built on actually is affected by contamination.

Order your environmental report for £50 today by calling 0333 344 3234.

What is contaminated land?

The term contaminated land is generally used to describe land polluted by heavy metals, eg arsenic, cadmium and lead, oils and tars, chemical substances and preparations, eg solvents, gases, asbestos or radioactive substances.

From a legal perspective, contaminated land is defined as where substances could cause:

  • significant harm to people or protected species; and/or
  • significant pollution of surface waters or groundwater.

This definition refers to contamination caused by past uses of sites such as:

  • former factories
  • mines
  • steelworks
  • refineries
  • landfills

3 Things you can do if the environmental report flags up contamination

If your environmental report indicates contaminated land you’ll need to get one of the following for reassurance:

Bullet-1Write to the Environmental Health Department 
(local authority) or Environment Agency to check their records:

Letter Template

Dear Sir / Madam,

Re: Potential contaminated land under PROPERTY ADDRESS

I am purchasing the above mentioned property and it has been flagged within my environmental report (attached) that the property is potentially built on contaminated land.

Please can you help me by providing:

  • Any information regarding past industrial land use(s).
  • (If applicable) Information on the nearby landfill site e.g. the nature of the fill materials and the dates of infilling, and whether there are any gas protection measures at the landfill and the property.
  • Any site investigations/remedial works carried out at the property or in close proximity.
  • Information on any pollution incidents/ records of contamination.
  • Whether they have any concerns regarding ground conditions on or adjacent to the property site.
  • Whether the site has been risk ranked in accordance with their Contaminated Land Strategy and if so what level it has been assigned (Low, Medium or High; Category 1, 2, 3, etc).

I really appreciate your help in this matter and look forward to hearing back from you shortly.

Yours faithfully,


Environmental Search Contaminated Land
Contaminated Land Contact Details & Costs by Council

 Council Email to contact council Fee To 

London Borough Council of Hounslow


Stockport Council


London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham  


London Borough of Tower Hamlets or


Havering London Borough Council


Bristol City Council


London Borough of Barnet

£47.50 - 
Sometimes free


Bullet-2Obtain a copy of Building Warranty Certificate (NHBC) from the sellers
An NHBC Certificate or Cover note dated after 1st April 1999 for the property that provides contaminated land cover included within the policy will provide insurance against contaminated land.

If the warranty provider is Zurich/Premier/LABC then as long as the policy schedule shows contaminated land or environmental impairment cover is included, this will be fine as well.

Bullet-3Obtain Planning Department (local authority)

  • Planning permissions for the site that include conditions associated with contaminated land.
  • Written confirmation from the local authority that any relevant conditions have been fully discharged.

(Please note: both Option 2 & 3 must be provided together and can't be provided on their own)

Still worried about contaminated land?

If you are still worried about contaminated land then call and speak to one of conveyancing specialists on 0333 344 3234.

Further information? Click to read the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs' Contaminated Land Statutory Guidance

Contaminated Land - Property Searches Explained

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