Records search checklist

You can find clues about potential contaminants when you know a property's past history. If you're planning to buy real estate property, you must research and know the past uses of the property first, especially if small or home-based businesses have operated there.

The property inspection must show due diligence. That means you must show that you investigated the property fully before buying or leasing it and did not find any contamination. If an inspection is not done with due diligence, you may be liable for cleaning up any contamination that might be found later.


Applies to:

Records Search Suggestions:
Check our Site Lists and searchable databases
Hazardous Sites List
Confirmed & Suspected Contaminated Sites List
Leaking Underground Storage Tank List
Facility/Site Database and/or Atlas
EPA National Priorities List & CERCLIS Database
Conduct Personal Interviews with...
Current and former property owners
(+operators +employees, if small business)
Regulatory agency employees
Nearby residents, businesses
Review Records of local, state, and federal regulatory agencies
County health departments
Local planning offices

Check for:
Environmental permits
Hazardous waste manifests, storage notices, waste generator reports
Inspection reports
Spill reports
Violation notices, administrative orders, compliance schedules, enforcement actions
Correspondence regarding the site / property
Zoning, comprehensive plans
Business licenses
Review Other Public Records
Local newspapers, clipping files
County auditor's office
Courts (superior & district)

Title records
Environmental liens
Surrounding property owners & zoning
Aerial photos
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Polk City Directories
Historical records, photos (e.g., archival records, business records, manuscripts, personal papers)
Books on local history
Periodicals / journals on local history
Historical society records
Historical museum records
Litigation regarding property owner
For commercial properties,
Consider conducting a 'Phase I Site Assessment'
(often done by a contractor)
See: Selecting an Environmental Consulting Firm

For more detailed information, please read:

Disclaimer: We provide this Cleanup Guide as a service to the public. Please be aware that it is not exhaustive and you may also need to obtain information from other sources. Subject matter experts have completed a quality review of the information in this Cleanup Guide, but there is no assurance that it is free from errors. This Cleanup Guide cannot be relied upon to create rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable by any party in litigation with the state of Washington.