Porter Ranch Residents’ Lost Equity
The residents of Porter Ranch have begun experiencing the long-term effects of the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak a year after it occurred. In October 2015, the Aliso Canyon Gas storage field of the Southern California Gas Co. sprung a leak. The storage facility was used for pressurized gas that supplied various power plants across Los Angeles. When a pipe burst in the facility it released an enormous cloud of methane gas over the surrounding areas.
It is estimated that the amount of leaked gas was almost 100,000 metric tons. That atmospheric release was the highest in US history and is considered the worst environmental disaster since the BP oil spill. The leak lasted for 112 days until it was finally sealed. The benzene well leaked about 53 metric tons of gas every hour during the first days. After various unsuccessful attempts to stop the leak from the top part of the well a relief well was dug. The leak resulted in considerable damage before being stopped and that led to multitude of lawsuits.
Initially, the residents started experiencing nausea, headaches, and nosebleeds. These effects were not limited to people but also spread to animals. Some people were forced to move due to health issues resulting from the inhalation of the gas. Some businesses and schools closed. SoCalGas evacuated more than 8,000 families to nearby hotels. Many chose not to return.
Property Damage from the Leak
However, the health issues are not the only aftermath that the gas leak caused. A year down the line, the housing market in Porter Ranch is feeling the heat. Residents have a hard time selling their homes. Many residents have launched suits against SoCalGas for property damage. Buyers are not interested in purchasing property where a gas leak occurred only a year ago. Sellers are in a difficult situation as many of them were forced to move from the property. Such legal complications can be tough to handle; hence, the suitability of an experienced lawyer in Los Angeles. Here are only some of the challenges that property sellers in Porter Ranch are dealing with.
Although the leak was sealed on February 18, some people are still afraid to live in the area. Potential buyers still consider the possibility of another gas leak in the future. Although the Aliso Canyon remains operational, there are ongoing proceedings to evaluate the possibility of shutting it down. Therefore it is difficult to present the area as a safe place to live.
Perhaps the most important aspect affecting the real estate market is the falling equity of property in the area. Compared to median sales from the previous years, fewer Porter Ranch homes are selling. After the benzene leak on October 23, the prices held strong for a period of time. But during the time between December and February median sales decreased 20% even though prices in the rest of the nation were going up. Another factor that keeps the prices low is the fact that many homeowners in the are trying to sell.
Another aspect that influences the falling housing prices is the fact that there has not been a community health study yet. SoCalGas is still in court with air regulators fighting over the costs of the survey and how far it should stretch. This study is important because it will show the long-term effects that the gas leak will have on the residents of Porter Ranch. Another issue is gas residue that may be present in some homes. SoCalGas stated that it will conduct tests on the homes in Porter Ranch and surrounding areas to check for trapped methane and mercaptans. That does not happen as of today.
Sellers of property in Porter Ranch are now required to disclose property’s proximity from the gas storage facility. If a mortgage is necessary, some lenders are demanding more than one appraisal just to make sure the property has not lost in value. Thus, it is not only hard to sell the property but also to maintain it.
Although it is speculated that the effects on the housing market will not be permanent, current sellers are left holding the bag. Additionally, sellers can’t completely rule out the possibility that it will take long for the value of homes to increase. As stated, authorities and SoCalGas are still conducting investigations to gauge the full impact of the leak. So, it is hard to tell what the situation will look like in a few months, years, or even decades.
As a company, SoCalGas had a responsibility to guarantee the safety of the residents of Porter Ranch and other areas in the San Fernando Valley. Operating an oil field and natural gas facility means understanding the risks that the public is exposed to. Thus, several state authorities have pursued cases to make the company liable.
If you are a homeowner and stuck with a property that has decreased in value, then you may want to seek legal representation. At JT Legal Group, we have thoroughly studied the effects of lost equity in the area. Even if residents have not had any health related issues, they may have be entitled to lost equity in their property. The level of damage resulting from this disaster is be hard to determine by a layperson. JT Legal Group has the real estate and personal injury experience needed.
SoCalGas Company denied any wrongdoing and they stated that they would defend all claims and lawsuits. Large utilities, large companies, and insurance companies notoriously undervalue claimants’ damages. They attempt to reduce their exposures and liabilities by quickly settling claims before the full value gets established. People who suffered injuries and property damages as a result of the gas leak risk settling for much less than they are entitled by attempting to handle claims against the SoCalGas Company on their own.
A no cost consultation with a licensed and experienced California Property Damage Attorney is available by calling:
1-888-LAW-3111 Monday-Friday, 8am to 6pm.
— Jack Ter-Saakyan, Esq.
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