By law, in North Carolina, a septic system must be properly permitted to ensure that it has been both designed and installed properly and also, that it currently operates according to the county’s Health and Environmental codes
. Acceptable septic systems ensure that the structure meets the individual homeowner’s needs, as well as the health care needs of the surrounding community.
What’s a Septic System, Anyway?
Though the majority of Mecklenburg County residential properties operate on a shared, municipal sewage system, some homes rely upon individual septic systems. So what is a septic system, you ask? According to the EPA
, septic systems
are underground wastewater treatment mechanisms that leverage both nature and technology to effectively manage wastewater from residential plumbing systems that are most commonly produced by bathrooms, sink drains, and laundry systems. A typical septic system consists of a septic tank and a drain field.
How are Septic Systems Rated?
Ironically enough, septic systems are not evaluated based on the number of bathrooms in a home; instead, they’re rated based on the number of bedrooms within a home, most commonly accounting for two people per bedroom. Bedrooms are a good indication of how many individuals will occupy a home, and therefore, it is more sensible to focus a septic system’s design on the projected day-to-day usage. Septic pros allot roughly 110 gallons per day, per bedroom; therefore, a septic system for a 3-bedroom home would hold 330 gallons of water per day.
Misrepresentation, whether willful or negligent, can land a seller (and their listing agent) in legal hot water.
With very few exceptions, most sellers are required to complete the North Carolina Residential Property and Owners’ Association Disclosure Statement
(NCRPOADS), in which the homeowners are asked to divulge first-hand knowledge or reasonable knowledge of material facts about the property, including the existence and condition of an underground septic system. This document provides critical information to a potential buyer regarding the history, quality, and condition of the home and must be furnished no later than the time a buyer submits an offer to purchase.
To avoid any potential lawsuits, both homeowners and real estate brokers should be fully transparent when providing details about the home, both in the aforementioned disclosure form, as well as in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Failure to accurately report septic tank capacity could result in overuse and eventual system failure.
Let’s imagine that a buyer purchased a five-bedroom home under the reasonable assumption that it is truly a five-bedroom home and that the septic system can accommodate the usage of up to approximately 10 people; unfortunately, the 5th bedroom was an unpermitted addition that was not previously disclosed in the NCRPOADS form, nor MLS. In this case, the new homeowner is well within his or her rights to file a civil lawsuit against both parties for misrepresentation.
In most cases, it is the real estate professional who is on the hook for negligence, as it is the licensed real estate agent who is tasked with the responsibility to educate homeowners on the significance of material fact disclosures.
Septic systems are underground wastewater treatment mechanisms that leverage both nature and technology to effectively manage wastewater from residential plumbing systems that are most commonly produced by bathrooms, sink drains, and laundry systems.
Potential Septic Tank Remedies in North Carolina
Unfortunately, when a buyer discovers this type of information after the fact, there are very few remedies, and sometimes, it’s simply too late.
If the septic system is adequately functioning but simply misrepresented, the disparity in the number of bedrooms may affect the future resale value of the home – potentially putting the new homeowner at risk for financial loss. The new homeowner may also find that they are unable to improve the property with plans for the home that they originally intended, such as an in-ground swimming pool or hardscape patio. Furthermore, to bring the system up to code, the new homeowner may need to take on an unforeseen expense to increase the existing system’s capacity, assuming that there is adequate space and proper topography, among other considerations.
If it is determined that the septic system has been overused, it may eventually fail. In that case, the health department may step in and put an end to further use in order to protect groundwater from additional contamination and require the homeowner to connect to the municipal waste system.
Let’s Wrap Things Up
As a Charlotte-area homeowner, you should remember that material facts must always be disclosed on the NCRPOADS form; while your Redbud Group REALTORS®️
cannot complete the form for you, he or she may clear up any questions that you may have in reporting the condition of your home. It is always in your best interest to be fully transparent with your real estate professional, as well as with any potential buyers when it comes to preexisting issues.