Steel septic tank by a homeGuide to Buying a Building Connected to a Private Septic Tank

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This article introduces a property buyer to homes using a private onsite septic system and provides key articles on how to inspect and test septic systems when buying a property. Earlier sections of this article discussed how to determine if a building is connected to a septic tank or to a public sewer main. But sometimes in older communities, especially if the age of a building is greater than the age of the community sewer system, even if a sewer is installed right in the street in front of a building, that building may never have been connected to the sewer line.

If you discover that your building is not connected to the sewer, or that no sewer line is even available, here we provide links to our key articles on what you should do when buying a home with a septic tank and leach field or any similar private onsite waste disposal system. Don't worry, millions of property owners get by just fine with these systems, but some steps are needed to avoid costly or dangerous surprises when buying a property with a septic tank.

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What Do I Do if the House I'm Buying has a Septic Tank

Pumping out of a septic tank in winterIf there is no sewer system present the home cannot be attached to one and a local septic system is or should be present.

But don’t bet on knowing the location and condition of such a system – some additional legwork is needed as important life-safety, functional, and expense concerns could be present.

See our very thorough guide for buyers of homes with septic systems: SEPTIC SYSTEM, HOME BUYERS GUIDE which discusses the inspections and tests that should be performed, introduces the need for septic system maintenance, and describes how to find septic tanks, distribution boxes, and drainfields.

Our photo shows a private septic tank being pumped - one of the last steps that may be appropriate when someone is buying a property served by a private septic tank and drainfield or by similar private onsite waste disposal systems like aerobic septic tanks, mound systems, sand bed systems, etc. All of these use the local site to treat and dispose of septic effluent, and all deserve inspection, possibly testing, and certainly maintenance.

Don't just let the seller pump the septic tank before your other building and septic system inspections and tests have been performed if you are buying a property with a septic tank.

  • If you own or are buying a home with a septic system, look through the list of articles below.
  • If you are in a rush read A Home Buyer's Guide to Septic Systems inspection & testing - what to do, step by step to inspect and test a septic system when buying a home and then What is a Septic System? An Engineer's View & Septic System FAQ's.
  • If you don't know if the building is connected to a septic tank system or to a public sewer, see SEPTIC or SEWER CONNECTION?

If you cannot find the septic tank, see these very detailed "how to" articles, photo guides, and videos that aid in finding the septic tank, distribution box, drainfield, etc.:


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