Septic and well - advice? Words of warning?

7 Replies

Considering renting out a property thats on septic/well.  Current owners have been diligent in caring for the septic - regular tank cleaning, liquid detergents only, no oils down the drain, no feminine hygiene products being flushed etc etc etc.  

What has been your experience regarding a rental properties septic?  Will the septic system wear and fail faster under the hands of a renter than a homeowner?  Anything I can put in the lease to withhold the security deposit towards the septic repairs if certain care and precautions aren't met?

I have the same question. We bought a rental with a septic tank. I did so much learning with podcasts, reading etc and it wasn't enough, it seems, after I read this .pdf article, linked below. I'm worried about this issue now because tenants will never take care of a place like it is theirs. Too late, I am going to rent it out anyway. But I found a great educational pdf about septic care and I'm going to have a discussion with the new future tenants before they sign the lease. The difficult part is it's almost impossible to hold them accountable for what they do with the wastewater before it is flushed, since the evidence is a tad untraceable. I recommend everyone read this, there's data against hot tubs, sump pumps draining into septic systems and yes even water from latex and other paint brushes going into the septic. I attached the .pdf link and I also annotated it with yellow highlights for emphasis.

http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/pdf/ww/septic/pl_fall04.pdf

Ya there's really not much you can do in the way of preventing them from doing what they will. Plus, no amount of security deposit will aid you in repair of a septic. New tank will be 5k-6k, and a full system is 15-25k +++ (just spent almost 40k on an engineered system).

Best thing you can do is not make it any easier for them to put problematic items into the septic. This means no in-sink disposer and no slop sink. I would also find a local septic company and get the tank pumped and visibly inspected annually. Its completely overkill to have it pumped annually if its functioning properly, but it will ensure that any problem doesn't have enough time to ruin the fields.

Last thing you can do is make sure that your tenants don't physically damage the tank and fields - find a way to mark off or block off the area over the fields. The last thing you need is the tenant installing an above-ground poll or large playscape over your septic fields.

I use an addendum and insert wording about what NOT to put down the drain. No NON-DEGRADABLE items/ NO CHEMICALS/NO GREASE.  If tank needs services because of tenants negligence, they may be responsible for pumping bill.  This at the least will make them aware of potential problems. 

At the end of the day, it's the landlords reaponsibilty. If you do have a problem and have the tank pumped the technician can tell if the tenants have abused the system by observing what is in the tank. 

Sam & Heather Jones- I've got a few properties that are well/septic, and they are a PITA. The tenants don't care about the septic as they will use non-septic safe toilet paper (the really cheap stuff), flush just about anything down the toilets (even though my lease spells out what can only be flushed). I can't tell you how many times I get a call that the main line going to the tank is clogged, only to open up the vault and find these non-conforming items in my tank! (q-tips, feminine products, male products, you get the picture). Then they claim it wasn't them! (It was there from the last tenants). What I did with some of my tanks are to put an elbowed 90 degree PVC pipe where the  tank goes to the field- The baffles don't always stop these items from floating under the baffles then getting into the field drain pipe. This pipe will stop most items from simply flowing into the drain field as most exits from the tank to the drain field is a straight pipe. 

One reason why I only buy properties on public water/sewer for rentals. As for keeping it functional, aside from spelling out specifics in the lease, I would do as mentioned above and have the tank pumped annually. This is complete overkill, as mentioned (I have had my tank in my house pumped once in 22 years, but I keep it maintained properly), but for a couple hundred bucks it will be really cheap insurance. 

Wow. THANK YOU everybody. You all are amazing with the responses. I put that post up and BOOM what a quick helpful trail of responses! What community. Thank you all for posting your views on the issue.

I have one on a septic, nothing you say or write will stop tenants from doing anything they feel like doing or flushing down your toilets. I try not to buy with septic or wells either.

  It's nice that they say they pump often and are careful with their system, but that isn't worth much beyond the breathe they say it with. No amount of maintenance or careful use can prevent septic system failure, it's the make up of the ground, the absorption rate that will keep it functioning whether you take "good care" of it or not. We've all heard stories " we lived here for 20 years and never had it pumped" and everything is fine, and I've seen enough newer systems fail, it's all to do with the ground make up. You don't want a clay type soil that holds moisture, you want a sandy / gravely easy draining soil.

  I've built new systems & repaired old ones myself, it's very expensive even doing it yourself saving money.

  I often look up the township meeting minutes online in places that I own in. One Health Dept's minutes were about a rental property where a neighbor complained about the "septic smell", the health dept went there and said the septic was "failing", they condemned the house, summoned the owner & made him put the family up in a hotel till it was fixed legally ( no midnight fix with a small backhoe). "Legally" takes time, weeks-month...Engineer reports/ inspections... Do you have enough money to put people up in a hotel with spending tens of thousands to fix a septic? They were threatening the poor owner (not a pro LL, but a reluctant LL who couldn't sell their old house) with fines & jail over the septic...who needs that?