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Question DetailsAsked on 12/4/2017

Follow up: city ordinance requiring sewer connection...

Purchasing home with 2 yr old septic in “fair” condition, sellers obtained proper permit to replace old septic. City engineer is telling me ordinance requires houses 200’ or less from sewer to connect, sewer is 185’ from corner of my house at a B line measurement, the sewer was added by a developer to benefit the community he built. For us to connect to this sewer, I am told we would have the extent the main sewer line some 180’ and install a manhole prior to making the connection to our home, all at our own cost. Neighbors next to this house have never heard about this ordinance, nor did the supervisor for the cities utilities! If we are forced to install (which we cannot afford $50k estimated cost) it would benefit the city, our neighbors could tap into the extension we paid for, how is this legal? What happens when we cannot afford it? The city themselves has no plan on extending the sewer line on our street!

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I presume you saw this response yesterday ?


http://answers.angieslist.com/City-ma...


You say purchasing home - given the complexity here, unless the owner gets IN WRITING from the city that the current septic is acceptable and grandfathered-in (i.e. you do not have to connect to sewer as long as your septic is operating satisfactorily) then I would say this is a walk-away situation. Hopefuly you have not yet placed an offer or are still in the contingency period - if in contingency period I would put in a contingency offer modification requiring that the OWNER get the sewer connection done at HIS cost AND approved in writing by the city before closing as part of the purchase conditions. Then the problem is out of your hands, though I would also require that his contractor be REQUIRED to coordinate with a licensed civil engineer as inspector to assure the work is done correctly and in a workmanlike manner.


Alternative would be for him to get a licensed surveyor to survey and certify that the existing street sewer is more than 200' from the house (presumably line-of-sight in the reg, though that might well introduce right-of-way issues over neighboring land or topography problems for a gravity sewer) AND get the city to accept that in writing - though that would still leave you open to having to pay to hook up if the line is later extended within the 200 feet. Maybe this has already been done since you said it is - what - 189 feet away ?


Generally, unless the city sewer line "serves" your property (meaning it extends past your nearest property lines (as extended into the street if you do not own to the center of the street), they cannot require that you extend the city sewer line - just that you connect to it if the house is within a certain distance of the street sewer. And reasonable interpretation would be that 200 feet would be for a normally routed sewer line, not necessarily line of sight - so avoiding topography constraints that would require it run uphill or to shallow, or across neighboring property. For instance, what happens if line is uphill of your house - are you required to put in an expensive pressure sewer line to it ?


Geneally, existing functional septic would be grandfathered in - usually they cannot require connection of existing houses to a new septic line, UNLESS they are in a water quality non-attainment area - but that would be a legal fight that would be expensive and could take a long time.


Personally, though you could spend a bunch of money on legal advice and fighting the city, first that comes out of your pocket win or lose and would secondly certainly take longer than you have in the contingency period under yoru contract, so my take is unless the OWNER can resolve this to your satisfaction (and an attorney should probably be involved in writing the contingency requirement/counteroffer), this is a walk-away situation.


On the legal side, it says you have to connect - nowhere does it say you have to pay for extending the city sewer, so any connection would just have to run across the property to the street then in the street utility easement to connect to the existing street sewer line - and would belong to you, and NOT have to be sized for additional connections to it, nor allow them in the future.


If you decide to go ahead, get legal advice - and bear in mind even if the OWNER does get the septic approved or get a waiver or prove the distance is over 200 feet or whatever to avoid paying the $50K or whatever to do the hookup to retain the sale to you, it would leave you open to having to pay for the connection if the line is extended closer or if your septic leach field ever fails to keep functioning acceptably - not a good thing to have hanging over your head.


Or over any potential future sale, where you as Seller would be in the in the same situation as the current owner of having to disclose and handle this contingency and possibly lose a lot of potential buyers over it, so consider that factor too. Remember, there are the occasional "perfect" houses with spectacular view or specific architecture which are just perfrect for you, but generally you can find a dozen or more equally acceptable and similarly priced houses in the same general area, so rarely is it worth spending a lot of money to bring a house you buy up to snuff, or to buy a house with a significant potential liability hanging over you.


One other factor - where did you find out about this ordinance from ? If from a notice already issued to the present owner, then presumably your closing date is at least 45 days after the date of the notice, so simple to put in a contingency that he has to get the required connection done per the notice, BEFORE your closing - but he has to do that anyway. If the 45 days is after your scheduled closing, then it would become your responsibility to get it done or finished - a nasty carryover which any decent escrow company would not buy off on - they would should require a closing extension till after the work is done and approved by the city. Oh - BTW - if this notice has been issued but was NOT disclosed to you in the property disclosure, to me that would be good cause to cancel the contract or to extend the contingency period to allow for this to be put in as a contingency item.


One other related thought - if this is NOT resolved by putting in the sewer connection, it is also possible your hjomeowner's insurer or more likely the title insurance company will find out about it and not want to issue coverage till it is complied with - meaning your purchase could come to a screaming halt just a day or few before closing - NOT a good situation for you, especially if you are selling your current house and have to be out about your closing date on this house.


Talk to your realtor, and a lawyer too if you wish to go ahead, but to me this is just a major red flag situation onthe purchase unless the owner gets the connection done AND approved by the city BEFORE closing.



Answered 11 months ago by LCD




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