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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 contaminated land has been flagged requiring 'Further Attention' in your Environmental Report that your property is at risk of being built on contaminated land, then this article explains what to do.

What can you do if your property is built on contaminated land?

  • Write to the Environmental Health Department
  • Obtain a copy of Building Warranty Certificate (NHBC) from the sellers
  • Obtain Planning Department (local authority)
  • Get Residential Contaminated Land Indemnity Insurance Policy

We'll run through each of these options in our article below.

Check with the council to see if your property is actually built on contaminated land

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:

Does contaminated land affect many residential properties?

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

"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

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

Contaminated Land Template Letter

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,


Check with the council to see if your property is actually built on 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

environmentalhealth@towerhamlets.gov.uk or


Havering London Borough Council



Bristol City Council



London Borough of Barnet


£47.50 - 
Sometimes free

Milton Keynes Council


£90.50 per hour

St Helens Council



    Obtain 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.

    Obtain planning permissions details from the 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)

What is Residential Contaminated Land Indemnity Insurance Policy?

There is an indemnity policy that can be obtained to protect against the losses for complying with a remediation notice. The cost of the policy can vary from £180 upwards so it can often be more beneficial (cheaper) to go to the council to check their records if there is contaminated land.

Read the inclusions and exclusions of a contaminated land indemnity policy.

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

*Fixed Fee – No Sale No Fee – On all Mortgage Lender Panels

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Related Articles
Environmental Search Report
What is a Local Authority Search?