By Wendy Schumacher
Prior to relocating to Washington in 2007, I had to sell my home in Fort Collins, Colorado. The biggest challenge to marketing the property wasn’t the original1962 kitchen cabinets or the three feet of snow covering the beautiful drought tolerant garden, it was determining if radon was present and, if so, if the level was above acceptable limits.
In many states, sales contracts require that people selling property certify if the property is located in a flood plain or free from a variety of environmental hazards ranging from radon to lead paint. On the other hand, today’s buyers and their lenders want to know more. In fact, a large number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests submitted to EPA ask for records about a single property someone is considering buying or financing or because some states require certification that EPA does not have any information on the property. The FOIA process gives federal agencies 20 working days to respond. For this type of request, most of the time EPA does not have any record of the requestor’s potential new home or small business. That’s always good news!
To reduce the amount of time for requestors to obtain a response from days to minutes, on June 25, 2010, EPA released a web-based tool where it will be possible to search EPA’s databases for environmental information by an individual address and print it in a single report. The tool is called MyPropertyInfo.
The tool’s primary audience is expected to be real estate agents, mortgage banks and engineering and environmental consulting firms. That said, everyone around the office who has helped with testing this new tool has looked up their own and their Mom’s address, too.
Wouldn’t MyPropertyInfo have been useful during my time as the FOIA Officer in EPA’s Regional Office in Chicago! I’ll never forget being seated at a formal dinner next to a real estate attorney who wanted to know the status of his client’s proposed purchase of a former gas station before we even finished our salads.
About the author: Wendy Schumacher is on detail to the National FOIA Office from the Office of Water. Between assignments in EPA Region 5 and Headquarters, she spent six years with the National Park Service’s Natural Resource Program Center in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.