Disclosure rule meant to protect buyer and promote septic system evaluation

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News release from the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health:

Disclosure rule meant to protect buyer and promote septic system evaluation

(December 17, 2013) – Before purchasing property with a septic system, it would be wise to make sure that the system that drains and disposes your wastewater has a clean bill of health.

If you fail to do so, you could be flushing your money down the drain.

While sellers of property in Allen County are now required to disclose the existence of a septic system to potential buyers, they may not know much about the condition of the system. Mortgage lenders and realtors can help protect their own interests and those of their clients by encouraging buyers to get a certified evaluation of the system prior to closing the sale.

There are approximately 15,500 properties in Allen County which are not connected to sanitary sewer and instead use other means to treat and discharge wastewater. Of those properties, it is estimated that as many as 70 percent have systems that may be failing or below current standards. Some are merely tanks connected to a web of pipes leading to storm water drains, ditches or creeks.

Failing or inadequate septic systems not only cost thousands of dollars to repair or replace, but they pose a significant threat to public health. If sewage is surfacing in a yard or draining into a nearby creek or ditch, it could expose people and pets to harmful bacteria such as E.coli.

Realizing the dangers inherent in faulty septic systems, Allen County health officials started requiring the disclosure of septic systems at the time of sale. The rule, which took effect in March 2012, requires sellers to notify buyers whenever a property being sold has a septic system and allow for a certified evaluation if requested by the buyer.

“We did this to protect public health and the quality of our environment and to protect home buyers from making an ill-advised purchasing decision,” says Gary Chapple, Director of Pollution Control for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health.

While the evaluation itself is not a requirement, it is in a buyer’s best interest to do so. “Septic systems can be very expensive to repair and even more expensive to replace, as much as $20,000,” Chapple says. “So knowing if the system meets current standards and is in good working condition before purchasing a property could save you a lot of money and grief in the long run.”

You can find a copy of the disclosure form and a list of certified evaluators by calling (260) 449-7530 or visiting www.allencountyhealth.com.

There you will also find a brochure called “Inquire Before You’re a Buyer” that explains the seller disclosure rule and the purpose of the certified evaluation.

About septic systems
A septic system, or onsite sewage treatment system, is used when a connection to a municipal sewer line is not available. These systems are designed to safely treat and dispose of household wastewaters, which contain disease-causing germs and pollutants. If not treated properly, these wastewaters from kitchens, laundries and bathrooms can threaten human health and the environment. Although there are a variety of systems out there, only certain types are allowed under state law. A typical onsite sewage system consists of a septic tank, which collects the wastewater from the home and separates the solids out, and a soil absorption system, where the effluent from the septic tank flows for further treatment by and dispersal into the soil.

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