Ask the MPCA features questions Minnesotans have asked us, on the issues the agency works on, from waste disposal, water and air quality, and chemicals in products to recycling and reuse, contaminated sites, and septic systems. If you have a question for MPCA staff, submit it via the Ask MPCA online form.
If someone wants to sell a home with an abandoned septic system, do you have to do anything with it prior to selling? If not, would the buyer have to address it? How would I go about verifying if a septic has been properly sealed?
Minnesota law requires a property seller to disclose, in writing, to a buyer how sewage is managed for the property, including if a property has an abandoned septic system. The disclosure must include a map showing the abandoned system location. If the system has been properly abandoned and been disclosed, it does not need to be removed prior to selling. If the seller fails to disclose the existence or known status of an abandoned septic system, they will be financially responsible for bringing the system into compliance and for reasonable attorney fees for collecting costs from the seller.
Minnesota state regulations don’t require a compliance inspection before a property is sold or transferred, but many county, city, or township ordinances do, especially in shoreland areas. Lending institutions also sometimes require compliance inspections for property transfers, so we recommend checking with both them and your local government prior to putting your property on the market. It is important to note that a disclosure is not the same as a compliance inspection, which is conducted by a state-certified professional to determine if the system complies with state regulations. A disclosure describes the condition and location of the system, to the best of the owner’s knowledge, and can’t be substituted for a compliance inspection.
“It is important that septic systems are properly abandoned to ensure there is no untreated discharge of sewage to the groundwater, and to mitigate public safety threats due to an unmaintained underground cavity in the yard,” explains Cody Robinson, a soil scientist at the MPCA. If you suspect a system on your property was not properly closed out or need to check if it was properly closed or not, please contact your local government for assistance. Your local government will have a signed proof of abandonment if it was properly closed out. Please visit our Healthy septic systems page for more information.
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