The city is now asking us to fix the system at a cost of $ 25,000. We also have to pay an additional $ 2,000 for an engineer. If we don’t get the sewer repaired, the city will summon us and we’ll have to evacuate the house.
Here’s the problem: we can’t come up with the money. We already have a home loan and have tried HUD, FHA, and other grants to no avail. We wonder if the property insurance company can be held liable in this situation. Otherwise, we don’t know what to do to remedy the situation and stay in our house. Do you have any suggestions?
A: You are in a really difficult situation and we are sorry.
For readers unfamiliar with sewage treatment, if you don’t have access to a municipal sewage system, you need a place to dispose of your household sewage. A sewage system takes in the household’s sewage and uses sewage treatment technologies (along with a little help from Mother Nature) to release the water in a cleaner form. The leach field, also known as the septic tank field, is the actual place where the contaminants are removed from household sewage. This is done underground, so the septic field can look like a meadow or an open field.
So yours failed. The first question to ask yourself is whether it is important that the sewage treatment plant is not actually on your property.
They didn’t mention why your system went down or whether you can perform repairs on the existing system. We suspect your neighbors were involved because they want you to stop using their land for your sewage system.
But this is where things could get interesting. You may have a relief over your neighbour’s yard to keep using the sewer system as it is today. The law contains a concept that, under certain circumstances, gives the owner of a piece of land the right to use someone else’s property.
We suspect there is no written agreement regarding your sewer system, but you did mention that your home was part of a larger lot that was subdivided prior to purchase. We also suspect that a former owner of your property sold part of the original package to the neighbor.
If that were the case, if they had split off the property and the sewage treatment plant had remained in place, the original owner would have received relief to keep the property sold (which is now owned by your neighbor) for your septic tank system. How else could your former owners keep using the house if they didn’t have permission to use this sewer system?
You should of course speak to a local attorney to discuss these details and read the local ordinances on repaired or replaced wastewater treatment plants. Your local community may request that any septic tanks located on someone else’s land be relocated when the system has reached the end of its useful life. Even if you have the legal right to use the neighbor’s land, the municipality may require the septic tank field to be relocated.
Let’s talk about money now. We did a quick online search and found that installing a new sewer system would cost anywhere from $ 8,000 to $ 25,000. Your estimate seems to be on the high end of what we found.
We would like you to receive several additional estimates of the cost of a new sewer system from various sewer installation companies. When shopping nearby, you can always make sure that the amount you paid is in line with the market cost. If you get a quote you may get spotted. When you get three or four, you can quickly see which contractors you want to do business with.
Sure, you’ll have to do something. A failed sewage system is not viable in the long term. The big problem is whether you can use the current location of the sewer system or have to move it altogether (which can be far more expensive). Either way, you need to do the repairs and find a way to pay for them.
We understand that for many Americans, finances are tight. More than half of American households have so far lost income during the coronavirus pandemic, and as we write this in mid-August, the economic recovery appears to be stalling. So we’re not surprised that you have trouble figuring out how to cover such substantial costs.
Can you buy some time from your church first? Can you ask to have the wastewater treatment plant repaired or replaced over the next six months to a year? While taking some time, talk to the contractors about whether they can fund their clients. We don’t know if these funding terms are available to you or if you can find a trustworthy contractor with enough liquidity to fund this project. Note that when you are offered finance in this way, the terms can be very onerous.
What About Refinancing Your Mortgage? So far in 2020, mortgage rates have hit new historic lows eight times. If you have equity in the property, you may be able to refinance both loans and lower your monthly payments. That would free up some money. Or, if you have enough equity, you may be able to withdraw cash when refinancing.
Some states offer grants to replace or repair wastewater treatment plants; others may offer state tax credits. Finally, local hardware stores can work with local contractors and be ready to fund the project. Some of the national hardware chains offer credit cards for up to $ 30,000 that you might be able to use to buy a lifeline (if you have enough credit).
We recommend that you first ask your local community for a longer period of time and speak to the local septic tank installation companies to see what ideas they have for you. (Your local construction department may be able to tell you who the community is using for their septic tank or sewerage work, and may even have a list of “approved” contractors as a starting point.) If you research the companies and find the reputable ones, we hope one is this company has something that works for you. Once you’ve chosen your contractor and figured out what to do, you’re ready to arrange payment.
Back to the title company. The title company insured your ownership of the land you acquired. You own the house and have no problem with it. There is a fair question about any relief you may have for the sewer system on your neighbor’s land. The title company may have been able to insure your continued use of the sewer system through relief rights. But it is a stretch to think that they will cough up cash to replace a faulty system.
One final question: did you do a septic tank inspection when you bought the property? If so, have you been told that the system is not on the land you purchased? Did the seller tell you this?
Review your sales contract and seller disclosure forms. When speaking with the attorney, ask if there is a seller disclosure issue that could be encountered with the previous sellers. If you’ve had a septic tank inspection, go back to the inspector to find out why you weren’t informed that the system is in such poor condition and the septic tank field is in your neighbor’s yard.