Our neighbour’s oil tank leaked into our garden. What can we do?

Oil Leak Garden

17 March 2021

One of our site visitors recently said they were looking for some advice regarding their situation. Last July their neighbour had an oil leak from their boiler and the oil seeped into their garden and proceeded into the garden of our site visitor under a boundary wall. It is estimated approximately 700 litres spilled between both gardens. Both gardens had been analysed and reports sent to our neighbour’s insurance company, but their insurance company have denied liability for the claim. The question was, what is the situation? And have we come across similar situations? 

Home heating oil is a highly-contaminant material when it is poorly housed and accidentally displaced. Oil remains the single dominant home-heating fuel in Ireland, accounting for 40 per cent of all supply (Energy in Ireland Report 2020 – SEAI).

Leaks from oil storage tanks, oil pipes, oil boilers etc are quite common, and in some cases, they remain undetected for periods, resulting in large volumes of oil seeping into buildings and underground.

Oil deliveries to homes are largely professionally managed and involve a simple delivery from the oil company into the oil storage tank at the property. It is rare for oil leaks to occur from the oil delivery.

From the Irish Claims Authority’s experience oil leaks can result for a number of reasons. These commonly include:

  • Accidently overfilling the oil tank.
  • Accidental damage to oil tanks, boilers and oil pipes.
  • Normal ageing of oil storage tanks, oil pipes, etc.
  • Construction damage.
  • Tampering with oil tanks to drain the tank.
  • Theft of boiler parts.
  • Carelessness when “home filling” oil tanks with a series of small plastic drums.

The costs

Having been involved in the investigation of a number of oil leaks over the years at residential properties, the Irish Claims Authority knows that the costs involved in decontaminating buildings and reinstating land can be substantial.

It is disappointing to hear that the neighbour’s insurers were not prepared to compensate our site visitor for their loss. Their property will, we assume, have been badly damaged and devalued as a result of the contamination.

It is was our specialist panel expert’s professional opinion that your only recourse at this stage was to notify the visitor’s own insurance company and to have them assess the damage to your property for the purposes of compensating them for their loss.

Given the length of time that has elapsed since the oil leak occurred, our expert also recommended the visitor seeking a free assessment of the case and provide you with legal advice.  We directed our visitor to our Online Enquiry Form where we were able to put the visitor in touch with both an experienced Environmental Specialist Solicitor and also an Accredited Remediation Company who was able to provide no obligation advice.

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