Many properties do not have a reportable hazard such as a well, private burial site, underground storage tank, or other hazardous waste or disposal site. The preparation and submission of a groundwater hazard statement in these cases creates unnecessary work for owners, sellers, agents and public officials. Is there a more efficient way of handling this situation?

Alternative Options

A possible alternative process would remove the requirement for preparing and filing a full groundwater hazard statement report when there is no hazard present. Instead, the conveyance document (deed, instrument, or writing by which any real property in this state shall be granted, assigned, transferred, or otherwise conveyed) would include the following statement on the first page:

“There is no known groundwater hazard and therefore the parcel is exempt from the Groundwater Hazard Statement pursuant to Iowa Code 558.69.”

The change would have no direct fiscal impact, but it would save time, reduce paperwork, and increase efficiency.

Precedents Set

Similarities present in DOV requirements outlined in Iowa Code Chapter 428A inform proposed changes to groundwater hazard statement requirements.

Section 428A.1 provides for a transfer tax associated with the sale of property. Subsection 2 of 428A.1 further requires that a Declaration of Value (DOV) document must accompany the conveyance document when submitted for recording to a county recorder. However, a DOV is not required for certain types of transfers that are exempt from the tax. In those cases, the filer does not submit a blank or “no tax” DOV form to the county recorder.

In lieu of submitting an “empty” DOV report Section 428A.4 allows for deed or other conveyance documents to include a statement that the conveyance is exempt.

Specifically, Section 428A.4 states: “if there is filed with or endorsed on it a statement signed by either the grantor or grantee or an authorized agent, that the instrument or writing is excepted from the tax”, the county recorder can accept the document for recording.

Seller Responsibility for DOV

Chapter 428A places responsibility for the payment of the tax on “any person, firm or corporation who grants, assigns, transfers, or conveys any land, tenement, or realty by a deed, writing, or instrument subject to the tax imposed by this chapter shall be liable for such tax.”

Penalties for Noncompliance

Sections 428A.10 and 428A.15 provide for penalties for knowingly failing to comply with the requirements.

Owner Responsibility for GWH

Section 558.69, Subsection 8 makes a similar statement of responsibility. “The owner of the property is responsible for the accuracy of the information submitted on the groundwater hazard statement.”

Stakeholder Review of Reform

This concept summary is intended for consideration by all stakeholders to determine whether the intent and purpose of the Groundwater Hazard Statement requirements are fulfilled.

  1. When known groundwater hazards are present, as specified in Section 558.69 of the Iowa Code, are sellers required to disclose them, and are proper reports filed with the County Recorder and the Department of Natural Resources?
  2. Are owners and sellers responsible for accurate reporting?
  3. Are there process improvement benefits by eliminating the Groundwater Hazard Statement filing when there are no hazards to report?
  4. Is the inclusion of a statement on the first page of a deed or other conveyance document that “There is No Known Groundwater Hazard and therefore the parcel is exempt from the Groundwater Hazard Statement pursuant to Iowa Code 558.69” an appropriate equivalent to filing a Groundwater Hazard Statement with no reported information?

All stakeholders have been encouraged to review this concept and the associated model legislation.

Proposed Process Improvement

Section 558.69 of the Iowa Code

“with each declaration of value submitted to the county recorder under chapter428A, there shall be submitted a groundwater hazard statement”