Septic System Headache

Old 07-01-04, 05:17 AM
Stan McDaniel
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Unhappy Septic System Headache

My wife and I moved into eastern North Carolina with new jobs a year ago and purchased a 1970's era home with a septic system. As part of the sale process of course the home was inspected and the septic system was supposed to be okay. In December, just because I wanted to be on top of maintenance, I had the septic tank pumped. The man who pumped it out turned out to be the same guy who inpected the system months earlier and he assured me the system was okay. Well, in May we had a small amount of standing water. I was alarmed and first had plumbing checked(no problem evident); then I brought septic contractor back to pump it out. This time he said the system was likely failing. He did however note that we had a slow leak so I had ball ****s and seals replaced on both commodes in the house. No luck. Two weeks later had to have septic pumped out again. The tank is now completely filled and staying that way. We have had the county out and verified that [U]the drainage field was compromised when the former owner built an addition on the house (concrete slab garage) directly over it. Because of the configuration of the lot, it looks like we will need to get a new septic tank and install a new drainage field going in a different direction.[U] To make matters worse, neither my wife nor I make that much money and we are facing the very real possibility of losing the house. I have talked to our realtor about some recompense since we thought the system was working and it wasn't, and to our mortgage holder regarding tacking a home repair loan onto our mortgage, but I'm feeling very hopeless at this point. Any suggestions?
Stan McDaniel
Old 07-01-04, 05:52 AM
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After a tank is pumped, it refills in short order and stays full of liquid. That is part of the process. When it stops percolating, the leaking begins.

You can nurse the failing tank by reducing the load on it as much as possible. Depending upon your locale, a gray water disposal system could handle water from sinks (except the kitchen sink), tubs, and washing machine sources.

You might check the pertinent laws for real estate in your area to see if one requires that the septic system performs properly at the time of the transfer of real estate.

A chat with an attorney may be worthwhile.

Your bank may be interested in helping more if the possiblity exists that the system failure would render the house unmarketable or uninhabitable, and the bank had to take the house back, deal with all the costs as well as repair the system before being able to sell the property again. Banks don't want your house, it's the money banks want.

Hope this helps.
Old 07-01-04, 09:25 AM
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Consult an attorney immediately. The seller may have liability here.
I'm an Eastern North Carolina real estate broker. NC is a "full disclosure" state and the fact that the seller built something over any part of his septic system is an absolute "no-no" and should have been disclosed to you and your wife prior to purchase on the required "North Carolina Residential Property Disclosure Statement". (I make those an addendum to the purchase agreement.)
This disclosure statement is supposed to be reviewed and signed by both parties BEFORE signing the purchase agreement.
The County Health Department inspects and permits septic systems. Get a permit from them to resolve the problem, and quotes on what it would cost to install it from at least three septic system contractors.
Take your purchase agreement, disclosure statement(s), and the new septic system permit and quotes to the attorney, and have them contact the seller for the cost of the attorney fees and the new system.
I doubt that the agent has any liability in this case, because agents are only liable for what they "reasonably should have known", and unless the seller disclosed this as required by law, there is no way that the agent would have known since the septic system is all underground and was working at the time of sale.
Good Luck!
Old 07-01-04, 09:53 AM
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In the event this is your first experience with septic systems, try this for hints on living with septic systems.


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Doug Aleshire, Super Moderator 2

Last edited by Doug Aleshire; 03-11-05 at 05:30 PM.
Old 07-01-04, 06:15 PM
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Is the tank damaged? If not you may not actually need a new tank only a new leach field.

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