Authorization to perform a real estate septic inspection – HB 1266

Authorization to perform a real estate septic inspection – HB 1266

Published on February 28, 2020

close-up-door-focus-101808This article is includes news applicable to the first-time buyer or the broker who has closed on thousands of properties!

You rely on your septic system inspector to provide the utmost professional service with the legal authority to advise you and your client appropriately. 

Onsite (septic) systems are regulated at the state level, so the legal code at the State level prevails. The relevant Code of  Virginia can be found here

Recently, a bill was passed into law:                   

HB 1266: Authorizes any individual who holds a valid onsite sewage system operator, onsite sewage system installer, or onsite soil evaluator license pursuant to § 54.1-2300 et seq. shall be authorized to perform a septic system inspection in connection with any real estate transaction, including refinancings. No person shall use the title “accredited septic system inspector” or perform a septic system inspection in connection with any real estate transaction unless he meets the requirement of this chapter. Also, provides that any individual who performs a septic system inspection in connection with any real estate transaction without meeting the requirements to perform such an inspection is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.                        

A Class 3 misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $500. All revenue collected from such fines is proposed for deposit into the Literary Fund. 

The passage of this bill would mean several changes for Real Estate Septic Inspections. 

  • This bill limits the authority to conduct a septic system inspections exclusively to those who hold a valid onsite sewage system operator, onsite sewage system installer, or onsite soil evaluator license, including refinancings. 
  • If anyone conducts a septic inspection without the proper credentials, they are liable to get a $500 fine. 

Item 1, above, has been long coming – we couldn’t be more thrilled to see the state legislature clarify septic inspection qualification. Good job to all involved!

A couple of thoughts regarding the fine. Quality septic inspections can easily cost $500 or more. A fine of $500 does very little to deter the unqualified inspector to continue business as usual. This leaves much of the incentive to police the industry on licensed septic operators, installers,soil evaluators, real estate professionals, and their clientele. While the establishment of a violation as a misdemeanor is ABSOLUTELY headed in the right direction, we are afraid it will not go far enough to prevent unqualified persons from conducting so-called septic inspections. As it has been for a while: buyer beware!

It is possible that if enough real estate professionals are on-board with this updated legislative knowledge, unscrupulous individuals or businesses can be caught not only with a misdemeanor slap-on-the-wrist, but can be pressed for outright fraud. The legislation defines the qualified individual as an “accredited septic system inspector”, which restricts what the unlicensed inspector may refer to themselves as. If an unlicensed inspector calls themselves an accredited septic system inspector, would this be a fraudulent misrepresentation of their qualifications? We are not lawyers – please chime in with a comment if you can clarify. 

Whichever way you look at the proposed bill, it signifies a step in the right direction. We wholeheartedly support the efforts of Trapper Davis, Curtis Moore, and Delegate Keith Hodges for taking on this effort. 

Stamie E. Lyttle employs many qualified individuals who are licensed onsite soil evaluators, installers, and operators. As a reminder/primer for how we conduct septic inspections, we’ve broken our procedure down so that you can compare each standard requirement to our practice. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us using the form below. 

Scheduling a Septic Inspection

Septic inspections should be scheduled no earlier than 30 days prior to closing, but should be scheduled early enough to allow for permits and repairs to be completed prior to your closing date. The repair contractor may have a backlog or lead time, so it is best to schedule your inspection as close to the 30 day mark as is possible. 

To schedule an inspection, you can contact us using the Septic Inspection Order Form or by calling our office at 804-232-6774. Be prepared with the following information:

  • Property Location
  • Contact information for Buyer, Seller, and Agents
  • Closing date and attorney, if known
  • Requirements for inspection according to CVRMLS contract

Schedule a real estate septic inspection

Once we have all of your information, the inspection will be scheduled. Our office will notify the primary party of a date and time. We suggest that all stakeholders in the property closing be represented at the inspection. 

If site information is readily available from the Virginia Department of Health or other sources, our office will review and include that information as part of our inspection report.

The Day Of the Inspection

Our inspection team will normally consist of a licensed onsite (septic) system technician, pump truck (if needed), and crew to help uncover the system components. 

Inspections happen rain or shine. Be sure to bring your mud boots if the ground is expected to be wet!

We normally have a quick pre-inspection meeting with the stakeholders prior to our work. Sometimes, the crew will begin locating underground or buried components ahead of time or during this meeting to expedite the process. 

Septic Inspection Procedures

  1. Identify, uncover, and open all system components. Our report will identify what components are present and whether
    or not those components are inspected. Alternative septic system inspections may have several components not in a conventional system. A site sketch may or may not be generated, depending on the availability of an existing as-built sketch. 
  2. Record the operational status of each component. Written and visual records may be taken. All photos are made part of our inspection report. 
  3. Identify any adverse conditions and environmental health risks. The system is evaluated according to original design and performance requirements. 
  4. Make suggestions and recommend actions needed to correct the system to meet regulatory and/or manufacturer requirements.  

Schedule a real estate septic inspection

Post-Inspection Actions

Once completed, the inspection report will identify:

  • Whether or not the system meets design, performance, and regulatory requirements. 
  • If any repair or modification is required.

If repairs or modifications are required, we will typically provide an estimate and time-frame in which they can be completed. 

Additional Considerations

We do not advocate the strictest of inspections, nor do we advocate “windshield” inspections which simply “red stamp” a system to move the deal along. We believe in a balance between the two, favoring the desire of each party to move a closing forward while identifying system deficiencies and lapses in perceived value where they may exist. 

Schedule a real estate septic inspection