Whose responsibility to empty septic?

22 Replies

I know I messed up by not addressing this issue in the lease.

For those of you who rent out homes with septics, 

do you have the tenant pay for emptying it or do you pay?

Will it be too late to add it to the lease upon renewal? 

they have been there 5 years without a septic cleaning. How often should it be done with 3 people living there?

Many thanks!

Unless you have a clear line in the lease saying otherwise, it's your responsibility to keep your rental property in working order.  Clearly, the septic system is part of that.

You'll get a large range of opinions regarding the frequency of required cleaning.  Same argue you should do it every year and others claim that a correctly designed and used septic system rarely, if ever, needs to be pumped.  I'm no expert, so will refrain from commenting - I'm sure others will chime in

I do it.  It is a couple hundred dollars for emptying  around here. Here in the towns we are in we are required to empty every 3 years. I would rather do it and know it is done then rely on them and get a backup of sewage.   If it is a gravity system without ejection pumps that should be sufficient.  Really I think it was $200 at one house, $240 at another and $300 at a 5 unit building.  You can add at renewal but I would guess you would need to set a frequency. 

Ok guess I 'll add it to the lease next year and pay to have it done this year.

Thanks everyone-very helpful, as usual.

I'm with Benjamin. Tenants will leave before they pay to pump septic. If you want to recover this cost, work it into the rent. It Shouldn't need to completed but about every 5 years unless there is a problem with the system. $300 over 5 years is like $5/month

Add it into the cost of the rental. I wouldn't make it a separate charge for a number of reasons. This is regular part of doing business. Your rents should always cover your cost or at least break even. But as a simple rule, if it's not specifically written out in the lease it should be your cost. 

pumping a tank should always be on the shoulders of landlord / property management and priced in with the cost of rent also you should make a note that tenants are NOT to use bleach and or antibacterial soaps as these products will kill the bacteria in the tank and cause a lot of problems down the road also it is a good idea to add  a bacteria of some sort to keep it working properly you can buy the over the counter stuff or just add some yeast mixed with water once a year or so I use bakers yeast every three to four years  

I have to say. I bet you would be one of those picky tenants that expects the land lord to buy light bulbs.
If you actually expect the tenant to pay for maintaining your property plus pay rent.

The only way I feel they are responsible for this. Is if they where flushing stuff that caused it to back up. After you had it pumped.

I have a SFR with a septic and make sure there is language in the lease/rental agreement that scares the %$#@%#$ out of the tenant concerning their abuse of the septic and I make sure they understand it and initial next to this language. Especially if the tenants have small children, you have to clearly communicate what items are forbidden to go down the toilets (baby wipes, bleach cleaners, etc) and let the tenants know if they plug the system they are responsible for having it cleaned out/pumped. Since I have installed these measures I have not had any problems. Unless the tenant plugs the system - cleaning it out is your responsibility. If the system is working properly it should rarely need pumped.

Originally posted by @Benjamin Timmins :

And watch your applicants go down to 0. No way would i pay for the septic to be emptied on a property i rented.

@Marci Stein

 Agree completely with Benjamin - maybe this is something that is acceptable in your neck of the woods, but it would definitely cause ME to walk...  if as others have said you are looking at 200 bucks every three years, then why would even consider asking the tenant to take care of it - or, more likely NOT to take care of it.  You'll save a penny and spend a dollar, in the long run.  

@Marci Stein I have NEVER in over 30 years heard of someone trying to charge a tenant for pumping of septic. Having the septic is no different than having your house hooked up to public sewer, do you think you'd charge separate for that?

If you cannot afford the health and safety requirements of owning real estate, I'd suggest you find another type of business. 

What are you going to do when they say they want it prorated and want reimbursed for the portion not filled when they move out? 

Another thought is unless you have long term tenants you can't be sure when the septic was pumped, if they stay only two years do they have to pump it?  I have had a lot of septics in different places and for all of them I haven't had to pump more then every 3 years.  I wouldn't want to have them pump more often then that.

I have heard a lot of people say they charge tenants for water but not too much about passing sewer bills on to tenants. my properties are all septic.

Putting it on the tenant  means a backup is on the tenant but it is your property that would be damaged by  a backup.  You could state that pumpout for issues/misuse or above a certain frequency is on them.  Or you could pump prior to occupancy and if you really want to charge it make it a pass thru. I guess I just wouldn't trust a tenant to proactively do it.

Karen-that's alittle harsh .

I am just asking how to go about it.Just because i am still learning about this business doesn't mean i need to change careers.

I like that we are free to become informed by asking, please don't criticize. 

I think I'm in consensus with the majority here. Getting the septic pumped is definitely on you and should be built into your operating costs as a recurring maintenance item. The only time I could see it being charged to the tenant is if they caused a blockage or if the system is filling up unnecessarily fast. But even then you would have to keep receipts and have specific language in your lease about how often you pump the system and what is considered "too fast", even then you might have a hard time proving that in court unless they fill the system in 6 months or something crazy like that. 

I was a sewer and septic contractor the only time I have ever seen a landlord charge a tenant for the pumping of a septic tank was wen condoms and tampon's clogged the ejector pump after the tank had been pumped already while they lived in the property. When renewal comes around raise the rent to account for future servicing of the septic system if it cost $400 to pump and you plan on doing it every three years raise the rent  by $11.50 to cover that cost.