In general: On-site system inspections are required:
- When properties are sold, divided or combined.
- When there is a change in use or an expansion of a facility.
- When MassDEP or the local Board of Health requires an inspection.
- Title 5 requires inspections for large systems, shared systems, and condominiums on a periodic basis. Systems located in cities and towns with MassDEP-approved inspection programs are required to comply with local inspection requirements. There are always exceptions to the rule, but these are general guidelines.Many people ask who is responsible when the septic system fails and needs to be replaced. The owner or operator of the system is the legally responsible party required to upgrade a failing system. Prior to transfer of the property, this is typically the seller. Often, the buyer and seller work out the financial issues as part of the sale of the property. Title 5 does not require that a system be in passing condition prior to the sale, but most lenders will not issue a mortgage until the failing system is upgraded or funds to perform the upgrade are escrowed.
Inspections are valid for a certain period of time. Inspections required in connection with a property transfer generally are good for two years. If a property is sold more than once in the two-year period, the single inspection is valid for all transfers. When a system is pumped on an annual basis and the pumping records are available, an inspection is valid for three years.
If weather conditions prevent an inspection before a sale, Title 5 allows the inspection to be done up to six months afterwards, provided that the seller notifies the buyer in writing of the need to complete the inspection.
There are many components included in the system inspection. General layout of the system components (location of the building sewer, septic tank or cesspool, distribution box and leaching field); Type of use (e.g., house, school, retail space), Title 5 design flow, and whether the facility is presently occupied; Analysis of the criteria specified in Title 5 that indicate system failure, and, for large systems, those which indicate threats to public health and the environment; Water use records from the previous two years, if available;A description of the septic tank, including its condition, approximate age, thickness of grease/scum layer, and other relevant information;A characterization of the distribution box and dosing tanks with pumps, if any, such as condition and evidence of solids carryover or backup; and The condition of the soil absorption system including, any signs of hydraulic failure.
The property owner or facility operator is generally responsible for arranging an inspection. However, prior to the time title is transferred, the seller and buyer may contractually assign responsibility for the inspection, provided that it occurs within the specified timeframes.
The completed Inspection Form must be submitted within 30 days of the inspection, in most cases to the local Board of Health. Inspection Forms for state and federal facilities must be sent to MassDEP. Both MassDEP and the local Board of Health get copies of the Inspection Form for large systems and shared systems (310 CMR 15.301(10)).
The buyer of the property receives a copy of the completed inspection form as well as the seller.
Visit www.allclearseptic.com for more information or call 508-763-4431