The Tampa Tribune, Monday, January 2. 1989
Banks requiring environmental
audits on properties
By ANDREW GROSS
Tribune Staff Writer
TAMPA The threat of having
to clean up toxic wastes on fore-
closed properties is turning bankers
Over the past two years, a trend
among lending institutions is to re-
quire environmental audits from ap-
plicants seeking commercial loans.
The audit investigates whether the
property will be used in the manu-
facture of hazardous chemicals, or
if it ever had been a landfill or stor-
age site for petroleum products.
"It's a new idea. Account execu-
tives are becoming more cognizant
of environmental issues," said Fred
LeHeup Jr., a vice president for Sun
Bank in Tampa. "We want to know
what the risks are going in so we
can limit liabilities."
Bankers nationwide are aware
of potential environmental prob-
lems because of massive cleanup
costs. If a bank has to foreclose on a
property that is the site of a chemi-
cal pill or has been cited by envi-
ronmental officials, then the bank
and not the borrower is responsible
for paying for the cleanup.
"Real estate lending isn't as se-
cure as it used to be," said Don
Gaudette, senior vice president of
Barnett Bank. "If there is possible
contamination, then we need to
While no banks in Hillsboroigh
County have been saddled with ma-
jor cleanup costs, Gaudette said he
.has heard of some "horror stories"
from other states.
Almost all banks in the county
ask borrowers seeking commercial
loans to complete a questionnaire
about their project. Sun Bank's Le-
Heup said the questionnaires are
designed to determine if the proper-
ty was an old landfill, service sta-
tion or solvent storage site.
If the applicant's answers raise
concerns, the loan officer will select
a geotechnical engineering firm
from a bank-approved list. The firm
will study the property and make a
more in-depth report.
So far, LeHeup said no Sun Bank
applicants have been turned down
because of potential environmental
problems, but he said the bank
needs to know of any liabilities be-
fore lending money.
"Basically, Its another risk that
has become part of a loan pack-
age," LeHeup said.
The audits have become so com-
mon in Hillsborough County that at
least three times a week loan appli-
cants or hired engineers request to
go through files at the county's En-
vironmental Proecton Umnis-
The EPC files contain notices of
alleged violations and consent or-
ders on certain properties, said EPC
enforcement officer Leslie Schau-
The requests have become o4
regular that EPC officials re ona-
sidering a fee schedule to havk In-
terested parties pay -lor t'he
opportunity to prowl wtarp1..he
files, Schaugaard said.