Real estate transactions occur every day. Prospective buyers purchase new or existing homes, load their belongings into moving vans, and eventually settle into the role of a homeowner. Unfortunately, for people who purchase existing homes, unforeseen expenses can appear almost immediately after moving day. One such expense is the replacement of an unsatisfactory on-lot wastewater disposal system. No sooner are the closing papers signed when foul-smelling septage is found in the backyard or sewage backs up in the house's plumbing system. In some cases, the only solution is a new installation or replacement of the existing system. This can cost the new homeowner anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000--in addition to the frustration and inconvenience.
You can lessen the chances of the financial burden of an unsatisfactory system through a PSMA/NOF On-Lot System Inspection. This type of inspection provides homeowners and home buyers with informative conclusions about the on-lot system they are buying or selling. The inspection cost can often be negotiated into the real estate closing costs.
What is PSMA/NOF Inspection?
A PSMA/NOF On-lot System Inspection provides homeowners or prospective buyers with information about each on-lot system component and the condition of the overall system. Inspection results are based on the experience and expertise of a knowledgeable certified inspector. Each inspection results in an on-lot system inspection report that states:
- the type and condition of the system and its components
- potential problems or "red flags" in the system and possible need for additional testing
- a list of corrective measures that should be taken.
The PSMA/NOF inspection described in this fact sheet is the first step to learning about the system. Where major problems exist, a homeowner may need to have more extensive testing done before an accurate evaluation can be made.
What a PSMA/NOF Septic System Inspection Isn't
A PSMA/NOF On-lot System Inspection is not:
- A warranty or guarantee that the system will properly function for any period of time in the future.
- Associated, certified or endorsed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or its regulatory or governing agencies.
- An assurance that the soil is adequately treating effluent or that it will continue to do so in the future.
The on-lot system inspection program materials are provided as educational and consumer information to improve your understanding of on-lot systems. This information is not an element of Pennsylvania state regulations or permits. You must contact your local Sewage Enforcement Officer or the Department of Environmental Protection for regulatory information.
The PSMA/NOF Inspection Process
Currently the Pennsylvania Septage Management Association and the National Onsite Wastewater Education and Research Foundation (PSMA/NOF) has adopted uniform inspection procedures. To obtain an inspection during a real estate transaction:
- The prospective buyer requests a contingency clause in the purchase agreement that states that a final contract is dependent upon inspection of the on-lot sewage disposal system using the PSMA/NOF Inspection Standards and the Checklist therein.
- A trained and certified inspector is identified to perform the inspection. Contact PSMA/NOF to find a certified inspector located in your county.
- The inspector reviews the system and completes the checklist. Finally, the inspector issues an On-lot Inspection System Report to inform interested parties about the condition of the system.
Uses of a PSMA/NOF Inspection
The information gained in an on-lot inspection provides:
- You with knowledge about the type and condition of the components of the on-lot system you are buying, as determined by a certified professional.
- A system inspector with information such as age of the on-lot system, household size, maintenance records, etc. that can be used by the homeowner to determine the likelihood that unsatisfactory performance may be expected.
- An independent contractor with background information that can be used to estimate renovation or replacement costs.
Ultimately, each of these advantages helps you buy a home with an adequate, correctly functioning and maintained system that meets your family's wastewater disposal needs.
Pennsylvania Septage Management Association
This association of septage pumpers, system installers, maintenance technicians, certified inspectors, and industry affiliates strives to provide environmentally safe collection, treatment, and disposal of septage. Members have been particularly active in developing the inspection program described herein.
For additional assistance contact your local Sewage Enforcement Officer or County Extension Agent
Pennsylvania Association of Sewage Enforcement Officers (PASEO)
4902 Carlisle pike #268
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Pennsylvania Septage Management Association (PSMA)
Bethlehem, PA 18016
Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
246 Agricultural Engineering Building
University Park, PA 16802
Prepared by Albert R. Jarrett, Professor, Biological Engineering and the Pennsylvania Septage Management Association (PSMA)