Water Resources Center
OSTP

The Water Resources Center is affiliated with the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and University of Minnesota Extension.

Buying a Home or Cabin With a Septic System

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Buying a cabin creates excitement and anticipation about many relaxing and fun times ahead. However, this purchase also requires some thought and planning about how wastewater will be treated.

Before buying a cabin with a septic system, there are some things you need to consider:

  • Where are the tank, maintenance hole, inspection pipes and soil treatment system located?
  • What kind of system is it?
  • What is the capacity?
  • How old is the system?
  • When was it pumped last? Are there any maintenance records?
  • Has the system been inspected and what was the outcome?

It is recommended and most local governments require that you have the septic system inspected to determine if it is in compliance. Compliance does not guarantee long-term performance; it simply states that the system meets local and state requirements.

For more details about property transfers including septic systems, see the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s “Guide to Septic System Disclosure at Property Transfer” or “Compliance Inspections for Individual Sewage Treatment Systems”, available online at http://www.pca.state.mn.us/programs/ists/homeowners.html.

If you are adding on or remodeling your home, you may also be required to have an inspection of your septic system. If adding a bedroom or garbage disposal, you may have to upgrade. If your system does not pass inspection, you will most likely need a new system. Local ordinances vary, but you will find out what you need to do when you apply for the appropriate permit. You can find out local information or ordinances from the county zoning or environmental services office.

If you are purchasing land with the intent to build a cabin, find out what kind of septic system would be appropriate for the particular lot. Also, make sure there is enough space for the cabin, well, septic system, deck, garage or other items. Be aware of factors such as small lot size, high water tables or soil types which may require special treatment and higher costs.