What is it?
On-site sewage disposal systems are governed by Title 5 of the Massachusetts State Environmental Code (310 CMR 15.000). This is the Environmental Protection Department’s regulation for the siting, construction, inspection, upgrade and expansion of on-site sewage treatment and disposal systems and for the transport and disposal of septage. It's your waste water system - It could be a cesspool, a series of cesspools, a septic tank with leaching field or a pit. If you're tied into town sewer, you don't have a septic.
Whose responsibility is it?
Your septic system is a part of the property. You own it and are responsible for it.
Where and when does it come up?
The Title 5 inspection language comes up in an offer, and can look something like this:
SEPTIC CERTIFICATION - SELLER agrees, at their expense, to have the waste water treatment system in full compliance with all CURRENT state and local TITLE 5 regulations for four bedrooms, as represented. A certificate of compliance and copy of the inspection report will be provided to the BUYER at, or prior to, the time of execution of the Purchase and Sale Agreement.
When is the inspection customarily done?
A buyer will request that the inspection be completed either at the time of the purchase and sale agreement or at closing. The inspection report will be filed with the town's Board of Health. By law, the report must be filed within two years prior to the property transferring.
What if something is wrong?
The Seller is responsible for doing the inspection and providing the report. If something is wrong with it, then the Buyer may negotiate the cost for fixing it. If the system cannot be fixed before closing, due to weather or something else, then the cost of the fix can be estimated and 1.5 times that amount will be held by the attorneys in an escrow account, until the fix is completed, at which time the funds will be released. If a new system needs to be installed, most towns give a 90 day window to get this done after closing.
Who does these inspections?
We love Doug Cooper at Cooper Environmental Services, LLC.
How much do they cost?
$375 - $750 - Ask the inspector for a quote beforehand.
When was the last inspection at my property?
A good place to start researching your own septic system is the town's Board of Health. They typically have permits and inspections on file for every property. Call them, and give the your Map and Lot number and they can tell you what's in the file.
Board of Health contacts for each town (click link to town's page)
Oak Bluffs (508) 693-3554 x117
Vineyard Haven (508) 696-4290
Edgartown (508) 627-6120
West Tisbury (508) 696-0106
Chilmark (508) 645-2105
Aquinnah (508) 645-2307