Owner asks Ilyce Glink how to deal with a failing septic tank

Question: We discovered a few months ago that the drain field of our septic system was faulty. The land is on the property of our neighbor. It was our neighbor who reported us to the local code enforcer.

A bit of history: We bought the house from a contractor who was selling the house. He denied knowing anything about the septic tank. We found out that both properties were owned by the same person and then the properties were split.

The city is now asking us to fix the system at a cost of $ 25,000; In addition, we will have to pay an additional $ 2,000 for an engineer. If we don’t fix the septic tank, the city will give us a summons and we will have to evacuate the house.

Here is the problem: we are unable to find the money. We already have a home equity loan and have tried the HUD, FHA, and other grants to no avail. One wonders if the title insurance company can be held responsible in this situation. Otherwise, we don’t know what to do to remedy the situation and stay in our house. Do you have any suggestions?

A: You are in a really difficult situation and we are sorry.

For readers unfamiliar with septic systems, when you don’t have access to a municipal sewer system, you need a place to send your domestic wastewater. A septic tank collects this domestic wastewater and uses sewer treatment technologies (with a little help from Mother Nature) to release the water in a cleaner form. The leaching field, also known as the septic leaching field, is the actual place where impurities are removed from household wastewater. It happens underground, so the leaching field can look like a grassy area or an open field.

So yours failed. The first question to consider is whether it is important that the septic system is not actually on your property.

You didn’t mention why your system failed or if you can perform repairs on the existing system. We suspect your neighbors got involved because they want you to stop using their land for your septic system.

But here’s where it could get interesting. You could have an easement on your neighbor’s yard to continue using the septic system as it is today. There is a concept in the law that gives the owner of land the right to use someone else’s property in certain circumstances.

We suspect there is no written agreement regarding your septic system, but you mentioned that your house was part of a larger piece of land that was subdivided before you bought it. We also suspect that a previous owner of your property sold part of the original plot to the neighbor.

If so, when they parted with the property and the septic tank remained in place, the original owner would have received an easement to continue using the land that had been sold (which now belongs to your neighbor) for your septic tank. system. How else could your previous owners continue to use the house unless they have permission to use this septic system?

You will, of course, want to speak with a local lawyer to go over these details and review local ordinances regarding repaired or replaced septic systems. Your local municipality may require that any septic system located on someone else’s property be moved when the system has reached the end of its useful life. So, even if you have the legal right to use the neighbor’s land, the municipality can require the removal of the septic tank.

Now let’s talk about money. We did a quick search online and found that the cost of installing a new septic tank costs around $ 8,000 to $ 25,000. Your estimate appears to be very high compared to what we found.

We would like to see you get several additional estimates on the cost of a new septic system from different septic system installation companies. Shopping around always makes sure that the amount you pay matches the market cost. Get an estimate and you could get stripped. Get three or four and you’ll quickly see which contractor (s) you want to do business with.

Obviously, you’re going to have to do something. A failing septic tank is not sustainable in the long term. The big issue is whether you can use the current location of the septic tank or whether you have to move it completely (which can be a lot more expensive). Either way, you have to make the repairs and you have to find a way to pay for them.

We understand that finances are tight for many Americans. More than half of U.S. households have lost income during the COVID-19 pandemic so far, and as of this writing in early September, the economic recovery appears to be stalling. So we are not surprised that you have a hard time figuring out how to cover such a large expense.

First, can you buy time from your local municipality? Can you request to repair or replace the septic tank within the next six months to a year? While you save time, chat with entrepreneurs to see if they can provide financing for their clients. We do not know if these financing terms will be available to you or if you will be able to find a trustworthy contractor who will have sufficient cash flow to finance this project. Be aware that if financing is offered to you in this way, the terms can be quite onerous.

What about refinancing your mortgage? Mortgage interest rates have hit all-time lows eight times so far in 2020. If you have equity in the property, you may be able to refinance both of your loans and lower your monthly payments. This would free up money. Or, if you have enough equity, you may be able to withdraw money when refinancing.

Some states offer grants for the replacement or repair of septic systems and others may offer state tax credits. Finally, local hardware stores may work with local contractors and be willing to fund the project. Some national hardware chains offer credit cards up to $ 30,000 which can buy you a lifeline (if you have sufficient credit).

We suggest that you start by requesting an extension of time from your local municipality and start talking to local septic installation companies and see what ideas they have for you. (Your local building department may be able to tell you who the municipality uses for their septic or sewer work and may even have a list of “approved” contractors, as a starting point.) If you’re looking for businesses and find the reputable ones, we hope one of these companies may have something that could work for you. Once you’ve chosen your contractor and figured out what needs to be done, you can work to organize the payment.

Return to the title company. The title company has insured your property on the land you purchased. You own the house and have no problem with it. There is a valid question regarding any easement you may have for the septic system on your neighbor’s property. The title company might have been able to secure your continued use of the septic tank through a right of easement. But it’s too much to think that they’ll be coughing up money to replace a broken system.

One last question: did you inspect the septic system when purchasing the property? If so, were you told that the system was not on the land you were purchasing? Did the seller tell you?

Review your purchase contract and seller disclosure forms. When speaking with the lawyer, ask if there is a seller disclosure issue that could be raised with previous sellers. And, if you had your septic system inspected, you should go back to the inspector to find out why you weren’t told that the system was in such bad shape and that the septic field was located in your yard. neighbor.

Contact Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin through their website, ThinkGlink.com. (c) 2020 Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

About James Almanza

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