Fisher Law Corporation’s Frequently Asked Questions

The following are select subjects which are representative of the type of law we practice. Peruse the articles: If you don't find a subject that interests you, call us or e-mail us with your request.

Notice: The information contained in these articles is designed to provide accurate information in regard to the subject matters covered and is made available with the understanding that the information provided does not constitute the rendering of legal or professional services. All information is of a general nature, is specific to California law only, and is not intended to to replace professional or legal advice. Each person’s situation is unique and the information contained herein cannot be applied to any individual’s situation. If legal advise is required, the services of a professional should be sought.

What is an all-inclusive deed of trust? »

What is CERCLA? »

How does a condominium differ from a house? »

What are Covenants that run with the land? »

What is a deed in lieu of foreclosure? »

What are easements? »

What are Encroachments? »

How does escrow work? »

What is fire and flood insurance? »

How do foreclosures work? »

What are the different forms of doing business? »

What do trade terms mean? »

What are liquidated damages in real property contracts? »

What is a Lis Pendens? »

How do loan modifications work? »

What is a Mechanic’s Lien? »

How does a Multiple Listing Service work? »

What is an off-shore trust? »

How do real property taxes work? »

What is Procuring Cause? »

What is a Quitclaim Deed? »

What is RESPA? »

Who bears the risk of loss during escrow? »

What are second deeds of trust? »

What is the Statute of Frauds? »

What is Statute of Limitations on Debts Secured By a Mortgage? »

Does a buyer’s broker have a duty to inspect? »

What is The Parol Evidence Rule? »

What is Adverse Possession? »


Q. What is CERCLA?

A. Overview of The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) is the most important piece of legislation governing the relationship between hazardous substances and real property. Commonly known as the “Superfund Law,” CERCLA was enacted in 1980 as a program for the clean up of hazardous waste sites.

CERCLA has three main parts. First, it empowers the federal government to take or require corrective action upon the release or threatened release of a “hazardous substance.” Second, it establishes a fund to finance clean up of hazardous waste sites by the government. Third, it provides that “owners and operators” of sites where “hazardous substances” have been “released” or threatened to be released must clean up these sites.

The most significant aspect of the Act in the real property context is the imposition of clean up liability on “owners.” The scope of such liability under CERCLA is extremely broad. For example, in most instances even a completely innocent owner who has neither caused the release of toxic substances nor even known about the release may be held liable to the federal government for the costs to clean the property, which may amount to millions of dollars. An owner may be held liable for releases which occurred before he acquired his property, and may be held liable in perpetuity for such future clean up costs as may be required if initial clean up efforts are insufficient.

Further, CERCLA authorizes private parties to sue for recovery of clean up costs, even in situations where the federal government has not acted. The same strict liability standards apply in private litigation, although additional defenses are available. CERCLA thus is a powerful tool in the hands of a buyer who has received contaminated land.

The courts have held that CERCLA was enacted to ensure the prompt and effective cleanup of hazardous wastes and to assure that the parties responsible for the hazardous substances bore the cost of remedying the situation they created. To effectuate these purposes a private cause of action was created for the recovery of response costs against any person who owned or operated a facility at the time the hazardous substances were disposed of or who otherwise contributed to the disposal of hazardous wastes at the site. This cause of action included an action against a former owner who owned or operated the facility at the time of the disposal. Liability is strict liability without proof of negligence.

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