It's something that most homeowners don't think too much about, but maybe they should. Do you know the age of your oil tank? If not, it might be time to find out.

Just after the first of the year, my oil company reached out to me to let me know that my oil tank was now 25 years old in their estimation. They told me that for them to continue delivering oil to my home, I'd be required to sign a liability waiver.

The problem with oil tanks is that they rust from the inside out. An oil tank's life is spent in a cellar that is usually significantly warmer than the outside of a home. Oil trucks transport oil, which cools off in transport. When the cool/cold oil gets transferred into the tank, condensation can occur. 

The water, which is heavier than the oil, will sink to the bottom of the tank. Over the course of 20-30 years, and sometimes much sooner, the water can cause the tank to rust. By the time the rust reaches the outside, the homeowner has a leak.

After talking with my oil company, my initial reaction was to have them install an oil pan below the tank to catch any drips or leaks that may occur. My tank is still in pretty good shape, and I thought that I'd be able to squeeze a few extra years out of it.

Then, I read this article in the Boston Globe about a Wareham couple that was facing financial ruin because 25 gallons of heating oil leaked into their basement.

Environmental laws force homeowners to clean up the oil, including the oil that seeps into the ground below. This often calls for a home to be lifted up, the ground below dug up, stones laid down, and the house lowered. This usually costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. For the Proctors from Wareham, the cleanup is going to cost $200,000 on a home that they purchased for $275,000. The most frightening part? Standard home owner's insurance does NOT cover an oil spill.

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What amazes me is that lenders don't require borrowers to take out insurance on this kind of a spill.  It seems to me that the bank is even more on the hook. The last thing the bank wants is for their borrowers to hit bankruptcy because of an oil spill and become unable to repay their mortgage or a contaminated piece of property.

After hearing about the Proctors' nightmare, I decided that spending $4,000 on a new oil tank, while not fun, is the responsible course of action.

Incredibly, there's a happy ending to the Proctors' story.  According to NBC 10 Boston, the young Wareham couple, who is expecting their second baby, just got word yesterday that their insurance company has reconsidered and WILL now cover the oil spill.

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