Well & Septic Tank Disclosures in Real Estate

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Home buying and selling requires some written disclosures to protect both parties. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the general requirements for property disclosures pertaining to wells and septic systems.

Tell All

Imagine walking onto a car lot to purchase what you think is a nice used car for your family. It looks OK, and you kick the tires. Later, you take it out for a spin. You decide this is the one!

Two weeks later after you've taken the car home, all sorts of things start to go wrong with it. Your buddy, a genius with cars, concludes that the vehicle has much more wear to it than the auto dealer advertised. In fact, he thinks the odometer may even have been rolled back to make the car appear to have much more life left than it actually does.

You're furious that the shady salesman at the car lot didn't disclose to you the true condition of the car.

You may find yourself in a similar situation when buying or selling a house. If the roof leaks every time it rains or the foundation of the home is crumbling, you'd want to know that, right? And, as a seller, it's only right that you disclose those conditions to your buyers. This leads us to the concept of the property disclosure.

Property Disclosures

You may or may not know that property disclosures are required all over the United States for a variety of things. Property disclosures are simply written statements from a buyer to a seller about potential problems or concerns with the home. Typically, any major defect or issue would require a property disclosure, such as lead-based paint or, in some areas, termite damage.

Property disclosures protect both the buyer and seller. The buyer knows what they're getting into and can walk away from the transaction, and the seller is protected from potential legal liabilities.

There are also property disclosures that sellers must attend to regarding environmental issues. These may vary based on where you live and the type of property being sold. Let's take a look at the two of the most common.

Wells and Septic Systems

In many states, a property disclosure about wells on the property of a home for sale is required of the sellers. Well disclosure, specifically, means that the seller informs the buyer about the condition, location, and status of any and all wells on a property. This means that any drinking water wells, wells for livestock, or wells for industrial manufacturing must be revealed to the buyer. If there are no known wells on a property, then no disclosure is necessary.

But you may be asking: what's the big deal? Contaminants, whether physical, chemical, or biological, live at ground level. These contaminants can be carried by water seeping into the ground and create hazards for wells beneath the surface. If you're using a well for drinking water, for example, you could consume these contaminants, which could create life-threatening health conditions.

Typically, a well disclosure will divulge the legal description of the property to identify it, a map that points out each well's location, and a status on each such as whether it is in use or not.

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