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Septic and we'll concerns for a rental?

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  • Septic and we'll concerns for a rental?

    We want to buy a house in this area (expensive DC metro) and keep it as a rental when we are abroad. There are some fantastic houses with great schools that check all the boxes, but they are further out so they're not on municipal water and sewage, but septic and well.


    I know about what not to put down the drain and that the system might need to be pumped every couple years, but would you trust renters with that system? I've also read that running multiple loads of laundry or having a large gathering (with lots of toilet flushes) can overwhelm a septic system.

    I've never owned a house with either but my parents cabin in the woods as well as their primary house are on septic and well. We definitely run multiple loads of laundry when we visit and my parents have hosted some pretty big parties and their yard doesn't flood with sewage.

    Our realtor says he's actually more concerned about wells which again I know really nothing about except they need to have a good flow rate, can't have E coli, and the pump might burn out.

    Anyway, is a septic and well something you'd leave to a renter or property manager (also our realtor) to deal with? Do I even want to deal with it when we move back?


  • #2
    I can't address the well. Haven't dealt with well water since I was a kid. I'm on a septic system and the only problem we have had was the original tank installed in the early '80's finally cracked, was collapsing and had to be replaced. We haven't had to have it cleaned out in the 30 years I have lived here and for 5 years we had 5 adults and 3 kids in the house on a 1200 gal. tank. The only problems are from grease going down the sink and clogging the lines. We are careful not to put very much food through the disposal. Not sure I would trust either with a long term rent situation.
    Don, aka Pappy,

    Wise men talk because they have something to say,
    Fools because they have to say something.


    • #3
      Two big issues with septic are grease which clogs the drain field and bleach which kills the bacteria that break down the solids in the tank(s). The bleach issue can be solved by pumping but the grease issue means a new drain field which is big bucks assuming a new permit will even be issued.

      Wells are pretty self sufficient and don't require a lot of maintenance. The biggest issue there is contamination. In a rental setting they need to be tested periodically based on state or county requirements. When we sold our house we had to put in a water purification system because the allowable nitrate standards were changed from 50 ppm to 10 ppm In the 15 years we were there (water test came in at 10.4 ppm) the filtration system cost about $3,000
      An ethical man knows the right thing to do.
      A moral man does it.


      • #4
        Ok, thanks. I love having a garbage disposal but I've read for rentals with septic to take them out. One property we're looking at abuts farmland so my concern there is groundwater contamination from fertilizer and pesticides. Might have to pass on that one although it is a front runner


        • #5
          When I was ten years old, my Mom and Dad bought a new home just east of Binghamton, in a place called West Windsor. Unlike the city, that area had no centralized sewer or water system and every home had it's own separate septic tank and drilled well. Just about every house was on the side of one hill or another and drainage was never a problem unless you were in the path of a downhill-draining heavy rain.

          But to the point of your question, that house is now occupied by my brother and in it's entire history (1954 to present), I only recall having to have the septic system serviced one time, which was back in the late 70's.

          With regards to the well water, we had to replace the pump at least once, if IIRC. Initially it sat in a corner of the cellar, but my Dad didn't like the noise and he put in a pump that was encased in the well pipe (I don't remember much about that). While we never had a problem while I lived there, I don't recall either my father or brother ever mentioning anything.

          That area is quite hilly and is still much as it was back in the 40's and 50's, except for the highway slicing through the area. As such, drainage just isn't a problem and the soil, though very rocky, has decent surface soil with a lot of clay beneath. While neither we or our neighbors had well or septic problems, we had one of our neighbors loose their well back in the early 60's when a fellow decided to put a stone quarry at the top of the hill behind us. Apparently the blasting disrupted the shale from which that particular neighbor's main water flowed through. They were one of the oldest houses on the hill (built back in the 20's. Everyone else was okay but the quarry owner had to drill them a new well.

          So basically I'm of the impression that location has much to do with such things and certainly household habits will have an effect on the septic system... we didn't have a garbage disposal and my Dad being a plumber and sort of "jack of all trades" had some rules about how we used the septic system. .BUT, all of that is well above any possible flood plain, it's in hilly country and draining is never a problem. In Painted Post, most people live on a river plain and there can be problems with that. Septic systems have no where to drain should there be a problem and during the heavy rain seasons, those on the river flats have some challenges. I don't know how that applies to those living close along the coastal areas or around the Chesapeake region.

          Think it Through Before You Do!


          • #6
            NOT related to the answers you are looking for, but a funny story:

            After being in Japan for about 15 years and in Ikoma, a suburb or Osaka for about 5 years, an elderly neighborhood lady in her 80's saw me walking home one day and came out to chat. She asked me about Linda (LOML) and how she was; she asked about our girls and a couple of other things. We talked a minute or two and then she went into a conversation that I had no clue as to what she was talking about. I kept nodding my head and saying Um, Umm, Umm. Then she said "that's good". I'll stop by an see Linda in a couple of days. I said OK, good-bye, and then went on home - two houses down from her's.

            Two days later after I came home, Linda asked: "Did you see Mrs Suzuki the other day?"
            Me: "Yes, why?"

            LOML: "Did she start talking about something you didn't understand?"
            Me: "Uh, Yes, after she asked about your and the girls."

            LOML: "Did you start nodding your head in an affirmative fashion and saying Um Um UM?"
            Me: "Yes, Why?"

            LOML: 'Do you know what you agreed to do?"
            Me: "No, what?"

            LOML: The neighborhood co-operative has called a septic tank cleaner to come in and clean out septic tanks; the more they sign up, the less it costs per home owner! You agreed that we will pay about $400.00 to have our septic tanks cleaned!"

            LOML: "You didn't understand her talking about that?"
            Me: "They didn't teach me anything in language school about 'septic tanks being cleaned out'!"

            We got our septic tank cleaned but I got re-imbursed by our organization!

            It pays to know what you are agreeing to do - in another language!
            Last edited by leehljp; 06-17-2020, 10:45 PM.
            Hank Lee

            Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!


            • #7
              I have a well and septic and am surrounded by farmland. None of these have been an issue. I would consider pumping the septic every few years as maintenance and figure it into the overhead cost of running your rental business. It costs a few hundred dollars so amortized over a few years would be $20 a month on the high side. In reality if you aren’t dumping a lot of grease down the drain it can go 10+ years without any maintenance.

              I had a slow failed leach system due to tree roots when I bought the house and still went 6 years before it completely stopped up.

              I’ve had zero problems with the well itself. I did have a boost pump failure but most systems don’t use a boost pump.
              Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. - Thomas Edison


              • #8
                I have a well and septic and live in S. E. CT. We are now 9 years in this home. Septic is pumped every 4 years. Septic company said no food waste down drain unless you would like to see us more often at $300 a pop.

                Well is drilled and has more lead that desired. Drinking water is RO filtered. No problems with well or septic yet.


                • #9
                  We have been here for about 16 years. Well and septic. When we purchased to get FHA septic had to have been pumped within last 5 years. Even though the whole septic and drain field were only a couple years old at that point it was cleaned out. So we were starting with a fresh system. The recommendation is a pumpout at least every 5 years.We have never had that done and have not as yet had problems. WE rarely use the garbage disposer and almost never use bleach. Never use antibacterial soaps or cleaners.

                  We have had to replace our well pump once. A modest priced submersible was the best option at the time. and we also had to replace the pressure tank once.

                  These issues as a landlord could lead to necessary expensive repairs often during the weekend. In spite of that there are plenty of rentals around here with well and septic.
                  just another brick in the wall...