Contiguous Property Owners

The 2002 Brownfields Amendments created a liability protection for landowners who own property that is or may be contaminated, but is not the original source of the hazardous substance contamination, commonly referred to as contiguous property owners (CPO).

Unlike a bona fide prospective purchaser (BFPP), however, persons who know, or have reason to know, prior to purchase, that the property is or could be contaminated, cannot qualify for the CPO liability protection.

Threshold Criteria and Ongoing Obligations

To qualify as a CPO, a landowner must meet certain criteria, which is described in the "Interim Guidance Regarding Criteria Landowners Must Meet in Order to Qualify for Bona Fide Prospective Purchasers, Contiguous Property Owner, or Innocent Landowner Limitations on CERCLA Liability ("Common Elements")."

Like BFPPs, CPOs must meet the threshold criteria of performing “all appropriate inquiries” prior to acquiring the property, and demonstrating no “affiliation” with a liable party.

Contiguous property owners must also satisfy the following ongoing obligations:

  • compliance with land use restrictions and not impeding the effectiveness or integrity of institutional controls;
  • taking “reasonable steps” with respect to hazardous substances affecting a landowner’s property;
  • providing cooperation, assistance and access;
  • complying with information requests and administrative subpoenas; and
  • providing legally required notices. 

EPA provides guidance on these criteria and obligations in its Common Elements guidance for landowner liability protections.

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