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How dangerous is having an out-of-use oil tank in the basement?

The home was converted to gas, but there is an old oil tank in the basement -- presumably not filled with oil. Is there any danger in it? Should it be removed prior to purchase?
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July 09 2009 - Camp Hill
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Should not be more than a few hundred dollars especially if it can be gotten out in one piece. In my previous answr I should have added that I assume it is empty which should have been taken care of when they converted to gas. If you want reassurance look in the yellow pages for a tank removal company and ask what they charge.
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July 09 2009
Even if it is empty, and the fill tube removed, the tank is considered a risk.  If it isn't removed now, it may affect the resale of the house later.
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August 07 2009
I'd like to commend this thread as being very informative. I learned a lot. Recently I saw a house with a new stainless steel tank in the basement. It appeared to be thick walled and very heavy. So people are still happy with oil. Since it was installed recently, it had to be constructed from smaller parts. I suspect in the old days, tanks were installed in the basement during construction of the house so they could get the large thing in place. 
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August 07 2009
There are a few dangers in having and oil tank in the basement. As pointed out in other answers if the tank has not been emptied it could leak and cause a major clean-up problem. The thing that no one else brought up is there have been a number of cases where the oil company has delivered to the wrong house or thought this house was on automatic delivery.  Since the house still has an outside fill they will hook up and deliver fuel. If the oil tank system is not in good working order they may cause a spill or have to come back and remove oil from this tank.  It is important to have the tank removed and the outside fill either removed or cemented over. 
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July 27 2009
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Good question, there!
Maybe it varies state to state; I was told in MA it would not pass inspection on a property I was overseeing some years ago; that it was illegal, so we had to have it removed.

What was 'supposed to be an empty tank' turned out to have about 1/2 of old oil, maybe 30 years old, which was no longer in oil form...It had become a thick syruppy gooky-goopy material that was so viscous, as to defy emptying as a liquid. It was a consistency I'd never seen before...nor the workmen.  If memory serves me correctly, we had to buy over 100 containers (not cheap) only to throw them away full of what the kids' would likely have described as 'dark Oobleck' of Dr. Seuss fame.

To make the laborious and expensive story short, the tank had to be cut into sections indoors, taking great precautions it not contaminate the rest if the Basement. As the contants were considered toxic waste, containers needed to be bought...a nightmare never dreamed of! Then special arrangements had to be made as to how and where get rid of the "Olily Oobleck" legally.

If it IS filled with any oil, it can become a hazard!  (I think that is why it was illegal in MA when the above occurred).
And what if an unsuspecting workman someday lit a cigarette near it?
Better to be safe than sorry...and though trite, this adage seems so true.

Good luck, and follow the safest rule of thumb.
   All the best,
      Mel
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July 09 2009
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Fydell: Thanks for the quick reply. How expensive is it? Do you know?
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July 09 2009
Its really not dangerous but it should be removed as it is serving no useful purpose. you can try to get it removed as a condition of the sale but you may not succeed. Its not expensive to have it removed tho.
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July 09 2009
 
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