Property Loss from Contamination
Transcript: What can you do about your property losing its value because of contamination being found on your property coming from your neighbor’s property. What can be done if your property has been devalued or if you have suffered damages? First there are two different types of theories, among many, that we try to focus on and one is trespass and one is nuisance. When you think about trespass for people who are coming onto your property without permission, think about the same thing of people putting pollution on your property without permission. That’s what happens when there’s a trespass underground and underground contamination of the water supply. It doesn’t matter that you’re not drinking the water that is under your property. You may be getting water from a city supply, but if the groundwater underneath your property is contaminated with hazardous chemicals, those chemicals give off vapors. Those vapors can get into your home. Those vapors can, through absorption and breathing them in, cause you harm and harm to your pets, and certainly affect your property value. Now I’ve talked about trespass, the other theory legally is nuisance. That’s where fumes and other hazards have prevented you from using and enjoying your property. So imagine yourself living in a property that all the sudden you find it is contaminated and you have to have air purifiers and scrubbers to even breathe in your home, or you are told to evacuate it by the environmental authorities. That is a pretty serious situation and what I would call a serious nuisance. So what kinds of factors go into determining a devaluation of property? One, would somebody else buy it? Most likely once it is contaminated, no. You may have health consequences that you can recover. Those would be for getting medical testing, periodic testing once a year to check for cancers that might be associated with a chemical. You can recover for the damage to the use and enjoyment of the property in addition to its devaluation. Just because it is devalued or has zero value after it has been contaminated doesn’t mean you have to necessarily move out of it and abandon it. You can continue to live there, but your usefulness of it has been diminished. All those are things that you can recover as an element of damages under the law.