Inspection Basics for “Time of Sale” Onsite System Inspections

Where should the inspector begin the inspection?



The inspection should start with the real estate listing document, not in the back yard!

The listing form determines how many bedrooms the buyer thinks he is buying.  This is important.  In most states, onsite systems are sized based on the number of bedrooms in the structure. Once the number of bedrooms being offered is known, the next inspection point is the initial system permt. This document stipulates the number of bedrooms the system was built to accommodate.  

By comparing the listing statement with the permit, the inspector can determine if the number of bedrooms “grew” and whether or not the system grew with it.  If these two numbers do not agree, the seller has some ‘splainin’ to do.
This seemingly minor discrepancy (bedrooms being sold vs. bedrooms originally approved) can lead to a municipal requirement for the system to be expanded. Expansion requires soil testing and permitting - if expansion is even possible.
The alternative is to reduce the number of rooms used as bedrooms.  Should all parties agree to a lower number of bedrooms to match the permitted number, this should not be a “wink-wink, nod-nod” action by the buyer and seller.  Here’s why...
Undocumented bedrooms signal increased sewage flows to an essentially “undersized” system.  Increased flow is bad.  Even in good soils, too much flow is a major cause of system failure.     
Choosing to manipulate the inspection outcome through fancy bedroom counting will likely not hurt the seller, but it could bring great harm to the buyer.
Once the basic system capacity is known, the inspector should move to the back (or front) yard to find and expose the septic tank.


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