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 60A of the Environment Protection Act 1970 (‘the Act’), the occupier on whom a clean-up notice or a form of abatement notice has been issued must notify any person who proposes to become an occupier of the premises that a clean-up notice or abatement notice is in force.

For example, under section 53ZE of the Act, the occupier of any site for which a statement of environmental audit has been issued must provide a copy of that statement to any person who proposes to become the occupier of the premises, unless a certificate of environmental audit has been subsequently issued.

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: 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 certificates and statements of environmental audit (available on EPA website).
  • Review the EPA Priority Sites Register for information about sites with a current EPA Notice (for example, clean-up notice or pollution abatement notice (PAN) or minor works pollution abatement notice (MWPAN).
  • 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).

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 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

Report pollution

Page last updated: 14/03/19