In a recent transaction my sellers received an offer on their home, and the purchase agreement required them to have their septic system inspected within 15 business days. They were delayed by rain, and then it took several days to located the tanks as one was buried under their deck, so the deck had to be taken apart. Although the tanks had been pumped on a regular basis, they hadn’t been inspected for over 20 years. Unfortunately, the inspector found both tanks to be cracked and required them to be replaced.

 By the time the seller received estimates and selected a contractor, it was the day before closing. We had one day to get the tanks pumped, removed, new tanks installed, inspected by the county, the yard re-graded, the deck reassembled, and get a certificate of compliance to the lender, not to mention packing, moving, and cleaning. This was an extremely stressful day for all parties involved, but the teamwork was absolutely amazing. I believe it was only possible because of our small town atmosphere. Everyone involved was a neighbor that genuinely cared about doing what they could to make this happen. Amazingly we closed on time.

 A failed septic system is expensive to repair or replace and if the sellers didn’t have funds to pay for it, they wouldn’t have been able to sell their home. In this case the contractor was paid out of the proceeds from the sale at closing.

 Chisago County requires an inspection of the septic system, by the county inspector, prior to the point of sale or closing. If the inspection passes a compliance certification is issued, which is needed to close. If it doesn’t pass, the system needs to be repaired or replaced, and re-inspected prior to closing. If the system is less than 5 years old, and it passed the inspection when it was installed, it is considered to have a valid certification. If an older system has been certified as being compliant, the certification is good for 3 years.

 If you are thinking about selling in the near future, get your septic system inspection scheduled the next time you have your tanks pumped and keep your compliance certificate. Septic systems are not normally inspected in the winter as the ground needs to be thawed, spring road restrictions cause delays, and contractors are extremely busy trying to catch up in late spring and early summer.

 An experienced real estate agent can answer questions about required inspections, and can help you plan your next move.

Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.