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Septic system inspection laws

March 23, 2012
By MARIO D'ARTAGNAN - Real Estate in Perspective , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

I recently read that the state of Florida Legislature is close to repealing a law that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2011, that required Floridians to have their septic systems inspected once a year, every five years. The House of Representatives has already approved HB 999, which replaces the statewide requirements with new restrictions on local inspection programs in counties with "first-magnitude," or large, springs. The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Scott.

Opponents of the law were concerned that homeowners would incur increased expenses by forcing them to pay for the inspections. The biggest concern of the Board of Health was that some of these septic systems were old, and were leaking into spring water systems and contaminating the drinking sources. Proponents of the law indicated that the cost per inspection would be about $500.

The new provisions of the assessment and evaluation program would allow local governments in counties with large springs, to opt out with a majority vote, plus one.

Whether you agree with the repeal or not, there are others states that have made these inspections mandatory when selling real, residential property. Massachusetts, for example, requires a Title 5 Certification prior to conveying property. In the event a new septic system is required to meet existing code, the state provides tax credits to offset the cost of a new system. Eventually, as systems become older and older, the state of Florida will have to address these issues once again.

With most VA and FHA loans, the lender will require that the local Board of Health passes the well and septic system prior to underwriting the loan. When you consider the vast number of homes that have been sitting vacant due to foreclosures, and in most cases the electricity has been turned off, that means that neither the well, nor the septic system has functioned on a regular basis in a relatively long time. A prudent purchaser should have these systems tested in addition to a regular home inspection. You would not want to discover that the parties that just lost their home to foreclosure, poured cement down the toilets before closing the door behind them. Yes, this really does happen.

In these situations where a purchaser performs the inspections, there should be some mechanism to report these inspection results to the local county, so that in the event another law is forthcoming, there will be an official record of a specific property. Until every property is eventually hooked up to public water and sewer, this topic will remain debatable.

Mario D'Artagnan is a freelance writer. He is a former investigator for the Florida Real Estate Commission. He is also a former real estate instructor. He is a published author and has been a keynote speaker on the subject of agency law. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. For questions or comments contact Mario D'Artagnan at or call 239-565-4445.



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