About 1/3rd of all homes in Massachusetts are dependent upon septic systems, rather than municipal sewer. This includes Wayland, Sudbury, Weston, and Hopkinton all the way down to the Cape.
Massachusetts septic systems, are governed by Title V or Title 5 of the Massachusetts Environmental Code administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). These complex regulations govern the inspection, design, construction and operation of septic systems. The rules affect as many as 650,000 Massachusetts homeowners with septic systems.
A Title V Inspection is a report done by a certified Title V Technician that documents the condition of the system at the time of the inspection. This involves locating, exposing and inspecting the system components for their condition and functionality.
Systems are deemed to pass, fail or have a conditional pass based upon guidelines set forth by the MA D.E.P.
A passing Title V is good for two years, or if pumping is done annually before the anniversary date of the Title V, it extends by another year and is good for three years. Documentation must be sent to Board of Health in your town.
Q: How much does the average inspection and replacement or upgrade, if required, cost?
A: Ask, but generally, the average cost of a septic system or cesspool inspection ranges between $500 to $700. The cost of repairs or upgrades vary depending on the nature of the problem; the location of the system, the size of the system, soil conditions; and site restrictions. A simple repair may only cost $500 while more extensive repairs may cost up to $12,000 - $50,000, or more. According to local septic providers, typical average price is $20,000. I assume you need to add engiennering costs. Contact your local board of health to inquire about typical costs in your community.
Q: If a septic system or cesspool inspection is required at what point in time must the inspection be performed?
A: The inspection must be performed within 2 years prior to the sale or transfer of the home or 6 months after the sale if weather conditions preclude prior inspection. If the system fails inspection, the system must be upgraded or replaced within 2 years of the inspection regardless whether the house is actually sold or transferred. However, voluntary inspections, inspections not performed because of an intent to sell the property, may be performed just to assess the system’s condition. The results of a confidential or voluntary inspection are not reported to the local board of health or DEP.
Q: Who is allowed to perform septic system or cesspool inspections?
A: Only inspectors and soil evaluators approved under the regulations can perform required system inspections and soil tests. A list of DEP-approved soil evaluators and inspectors is available from your local board of health. Certified health officers, registered sanitarians and professional engineers qualify automatically as system inspectors under the regulations, and their names may or may not appear on the DEP-approved list. Consult with your local board of health to ensure that the system is inspected by a qualified individual.
Q: What happens with the results of a septic system or cesspool inspection?
A: If a system passes, the inspector is required to submit an approved system inspection form to the local board of health within 30 days, and the homeowner must provide a copy to the buyer. Prospective buyers and lending institutions may also require a copy of the approved inspection form.
If the systems fails a required inspection, the inspector is required to submit the form to the local board of health within 30 days, and the homeowner must provide a copy to the buyer. The system must be repaired or upgraded within 2 years following the inspection, regardless whether the property is sold.
Q: Is there any state financial assistance available to homeowners faced with the financial burden of replacing or upgrading their septic system?
A: With the support of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, the Massachusetts legislature passed a Title 5 tax credit which will provide eligible homeowners with a tax credit equal to 40 percent of the design and construction costs incurred to upgrade or repair a septic system. The tax credit relief measure provides credits of up to $1,500 per year for qualified homeowners with a maximum credit of $6,000 over a four-year period. This tax credit is available for all septic system and cesspool upgrade and repairs which occurred on or after January 1, 1997.
Additional financial assistance is available in the form of low interest loans through the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency and the Rural Economic Development Service Loan program. In addition, eligible municipalities can make low-interest 20-year loans to low-to-moderate income homeowners, repaid by adding an annual "betterment" to their tax bill. Contact your local board of health to see if your community participates in the Betterment Fund program.
For more information please contact the following:
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Title 5 Hotline at (617) 292-5886 or (800) 266-1122.
Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency (HILP Loans) at (617) 854-1020
Rural Economic Development Service Loans at (413) 253-4330