Buying a 5 bedroom house with 2 bedroom septic system

brodas3October 10, 2009

Hello, we need some help. We live in Tennessee and are looking to buy our first home. We found a house that we like very much with 5.5 acres. However, we have discovered an issue with it. Our biggest concern with the property was that the septic system was in good condition. Upon our realtor doing some checking, this is what we discovered; The home is a 1997 doublewide - originally a three bedroom, two bath & 1600 sf. There have been three large aditions added, now making it a five bedroom, three bath, and at 2640 sf. When we received the septic certificate, we found that the septic system is a two bedroom system with 220' of leechfield.

Here are my questions;

#1 Can the Tennessee Ground Water Protection Division be contacted - forcing the seller to upgrade BEFORE closing?

#2 If not, if the tank is large enough, can this sytem be added to to accomodate the larger home and be sufficient. Enough to be classified adequate if we were to sell it in the future?

#3 If no to #2, what would the cost be to have an adequate system installed?

We are a large family of 6 (4 small children - with 1 6 y/o diabetic), with young-uns that like to stuff odd things in toilets lol :). We are also a fixed income family, and could not afford a $6,000-$8,000 "surprise".

I would gfreatly appreciate someones input. Thank you in advance.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm not an expert but I'd think that if the additions were permitted and legal the owner would have had to upgrade the septic system.

There's a chance the additions were done on the sly.

I'd check to see if the additions were permitted.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2009 at 1:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree.

The additions probably were done without permits otherwise the septic system would have been required to be upgraded at the time.

Additions to manufacturer homes also typically require an architect or engineer to design them. Mobile homes imply cannot be added to in the same fashion that stick built homes can.

You can ask the sellers to provide the info or make corrections, but it is unlikley they will.

Check with the local code office to see what was permitted, but you're going to find it is probably best to walk away from this 'deal'.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2009 at 6:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yep - you can cause HELL for the current home owner. Just like complaining about a car sitting on the street for over 24hours...

Course - your actually trying to BUY the house....

"Tennessee Ground Water Protection Division" might be able to scream at them... Demand they upgrade the system - or remove the bedrooms. So they could remove the bedrooms. Undo the entire remod. Course the house will be off the market then, and you wouldn't want to buy it - since it would no longer be a 5 bedroom house...

People remodel stuff all the time without permits. And I know of no house that is perfect.

A manufactured house can have bedrooms added to it. Safely. Even without the county's blessings.

Instead of trying to FORCE the current homeowner to do something - why don't you try communication and negotiating??

The current homeowner doesn't have to do anything. They can take the house off the market. Have you offered full price? They can refuse to sell to you - if you have not offered full price. You obviously have a counter-offer based on the septic - so they do as well. They might decide they don't wish to redo the septic. And say no go to your 'offer'.

You have 5.5 acres of land. It is possible - but maybe unlikely - that in all of these 5.5 acres - no land would be suitable for a 5 bedroom septic.

I mean - what if the septic can't be ugraded?? My brother lives on a lot of land, and the cost to upgrade his septic is quite high... It functions fine, but now the county demands that it meets code when the house is sold... and it does not currently meet code. It met code when built - but not now...

It is not in the sellers best interest to have tests conducted to see if the current septic, or surounding land can be made to function for a 5 bedroom house.

He has a 5 bedroom house. It functions for his family. If a septic eval states that his septic is not adequate for a 5 bedroom house, and cannot be upgraded - this makes his house virtually worthless. He must disclose this info on the disclosure form, etc. So - it is not in his best interests to allow a septic eval - when his septic functions fine.

Course - an eval might state it is adequate for a 5 bedroom house... Then he's fine...

Don't know what the septic rules are in Tenn. If you like the house, you might try teaching your children to be more careful about what they're doing, and still go ahead with the purchase.

Only a septic eval can determine if this is sufficient. And ground conditions, etc. SUBSTANTIALLY come into play with the cost for a septic. NO WAY are you going to know the cost to 'upgrade' without a substantial eval.

And if the county doesn't require it to be brought up to code during a sell - as here where I live - than no way are you going to FORCE this guy to do it...

I can't believe how adversarial people are! If the septic is currently working fine for 6 people, and you like the house - buy it - and do yearly maintenance on the septic, don't have a garbage disposal, flush tampons, etc....

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 7:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow Dave777, I hope you feel better!

All kidding aside, here's the answer:

1. No, you probably can't "force" the seller to do anything.

2. Ask for a credit to compensate for cost of increasing the septic size. The seller may turn down this proposal, but this is the way serious defects that are discovered on inspection are handled. You may have to move on. BTW: Once the Realtor and seller are aware of the material defect, they are probably obligated to disclose it to any other potential buyer.

3. If they did the addition without a permit and took a shortcut on the septic, check everything else carefully. People tend not to just overlook code in one area.

4. I personally don't agree with Dave777, you don't want to reward someone for taking serious shortcuts on things like the septic. You also don't want to buy something that you can't sell later without doing expensive work. Keep those kinds of expenses where they belong - with the person who made that decision in the first place.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 9:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Dear Broadas, Hire yourself a county qualified septic system designer to evaluate the site for you. This will cost you perhaps $300 plus $150 for the backhoe. Ask the designer if a "legal" 5 bedroom system can be built on the property and for how much. Approach the seller to reduce the price by that amount and make the sale conditional on receiving an approved design from local health for a 5 bedroom system. This will make sure that at the end of it all you will have a legal system to handle the wastewater from your structure. Anything less would point you down the road to another property without this flaw.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2010 at 9:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Remember you need open land for the larger drain field that WILL be required to increase the size of the system.

How much of the 5.5 acres is open field?

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 4:54PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Hard Water or What?
We are renting an older duplex home in CT, and the...
Can we bypass old hot water heater?
Any reason we can't bypass and then remove this old...
Toilet swirls, but won't flush!!
Very frustrated. The toilet seems to be ok, it gets...
Plumbing Kohler Ceiling Tub Filler K-922
Anyone have experience installing this laminar flow...
Fire Sprinkler
Purchasing a home with an indoor fire sprinkler system....
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™