Buying or selling property

There are important considerations and legal obligations for anyone wanting to buy, sell or subdivide land - or to change its use.

A range of due diligence measures occur when people and organisations purchase property, and many checks are made by conveyancers and lawyers during property sales.

Vendors are required to make site condition information available to prospective purchasers.

For example, under section 280 of the Environment Protection Act 2017, the occupier of any place or premises to whom a notice or an order has been issued under Chapter 10 (Notices), and that is still in force must provide to any person who proposes to become the occupier of that place or premises as to (a) a copy of the notice or order; and (b) details of the steps which have been taken (if any) to comply with the notice or order.

For example, under section 214 of the Environment Protection Act 2017, the person in management or control of the site must provide a copy of any preliminary risk screen assessment statement or the environmental audit statement that applies to the site (as the case requires) to any person who proposes to become the person in management or control of the site.

If you are thinking about purchasing a property, you may wish to consider whether past activities, including the use of nearby land, may have caused contamination at the site.

You should conduct your own due diligence, including, for example:

  • Inspect the site. Look for evidence of contamination or current and historical activities that may give rise to contamination (for example, an old fuel tank).
  • Identify whether an Environmental Audit Overlay exists over the site.
  • Review any site analysis presented in accordance with Clauses 54.01-1 (single dwellings) & 55.01-1 (two or more dwellings) of Planning Schemes Online (these clauses require issues of site contamination to be identified).
  • Consider any available information about the site, for example:
    • Current and previous zoning, ownership or activities carried out on the site. Council rate records are a useful record of this information. Refer to Planning Practice Note 30: Potentially Contaminated Land for a list of activities with high and medium potential for contamination.
    • Any potential contamination from surrounding land uses (for example, an adjacent service station known to be, or suspected of, causing off-site contamination).
    • Any previous investigations or site assessments conducted.
  • Review environmental audit statements (available on EPA Register of environmental audits and accessible via links from the Environmental Audit data in the Victoria Unearthed interactive map)
  • Review the EPA Priority Sites Register for information about sites with a current EPA Notice (for example, sites issued with a current clean up notice, pollution abatement notice, current environmental action notice or other notice to manage contamination).
  • If you have concerns, consider engaging a qualified and experienced environmental consultant to undertake an environmental site assessment, or an EPA-approved environmental auditor to complete an environmental audit. A list of EPA-appointed auditors is available on the EPA website.

Consumer Affairs Victoria provides a due-diligence checklist for prospective residential property buyers.

If you own a property within an Environmental Audit Overlay (EAO) an environmental audit must be completed for the site before it can be redeveloped for a sensitive use (a residential use, a childcare centre, a pre-school centre or primary school), children's playground or secondary school.

Find out more: Environmental Audit Overlay

If a change of land use to a more sensitive use is proposed, you may wish to assess the site against Ministerial Direction No.1 – Potentially Contaminated Land and Planning Practice Note 30: Potentially Contaminated Land.

Information about what is typically included in a site investigation is included in Schedule B2 of the National Environmental Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999.

If you have any concerns relating to potential contamination, you may wish to have your property assessed for contamination. You can also report concerns about nearby activities to the business and EPA.

Victoria Unearthed doesn’t do a property assessment – it simply provides information.

Testing for contamination

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Page last updated: 08/06/23