Private Septic System – When to Pump?

Private Septic System – When to Pump?

Does a private septic system have to be pumped at the time of inspection for a Contract of Sale?

One would think (as I have, until yesterday) that because the overall responsibility for approval and compliance of private septic systems falls on the Health Department of the Commonwealth of Virginia, that the rules that govern private septic systems would be the same statewide…..however that is not the case…….when-to-pump-your-private-septic-system

The paragraph 15 of the VAR Contract reads:

” (b) If the Property is served by a sewage disposal system, Seller agrees to provide Purchaser with a certificate dated not more than 30 days prior to settlement from the appropriate governmental authority, or from an acceptable private company, indicating that there is no evidence of malfunction of or needed maintenance to the sewage disposal system “

Now could it be said that it would require the system to be pumped to verify that there is no evidence of malfunction of or needed maintenance of the sewage disposal system……… may be worth the fight…..however,

Septic System Responsibilities Explained

The truth of the matter is…….if a septic system is outside the Chesapeake Bay Act, the municipality may not require that the system has to be pumped at the time of inspection……and, further it may not required to have the system pumped every five years on a maintenance basis………and, in the case of the Richmond area, the municipalities do not require that if the lid on a septic system is raised that the system must be pumped, nor do they require pumping on a recurring basis…….

So, by the standard language of the VAR Contract the Seller is not necessarily required to pump the system when they have it inspected ….

And, unless there has been a problem with the septic system, the Health Department would not have any records on the system, besides the paperwork initially filed to install the system. So, they would not have on-going records on the system, unless it had problems.

So, further it could be said that,

  1. A septic system has obviously been in good working order during it’s lifetime, if there has been no reports of failure at the Health Department.
  2. However, if the buyers wants the system pumped at the time of inspection, you need to add specific language to the contract to require the Seller to have the septic company that performs the inspection to also have them pump the system as well.
  3. A mortgage company may require the system to be pumped in order to approve the loan for the buyer, however, they may just require the letter from a licensed septic contractor saying the system is in working order per the terms of the contract….however, if they are going to require the pumping of the system, again, i would think that language would need to be added to the contract.

And, I think that is the safe answer……if you are writing a contract for a property for a buyer, and it is serviced by a private septic system, and the system is located outside the Chesapeake Bay Act, you will need to add language to the contract for the system to be pumped at the time it is inspected……

Do you have a clearer understanding of when to pump your Septic System? Let us know! And you have a question for John Wilson, drop us an email at