From long-term leases to short-term vacation rentals, there are many reasons that property owners choose to rent out their homes. Renting can be a good source of ongoing income, can be done during times when owners are not using the home, or might be a temporary measure before a property is sold.
Regardless of the reason for renting, there are special considerations for property owners who rent homes with septic systems.
Rental Properties and Septic Systems
If you own a rental property with a septic system, it is important that you exercise extra care to ensure that it will remain functional at all times. Even if a clog or backup is caused by tenants, the resulting headaches (and expense) could fall on you. If the property becomes unusable due to unsanitary conditions, you could even face fines and lawsuits, since providing “livable conditions” is the responsibility of the landlord.
Always keep in mind that renters may be unfamiliar with how a septic system operates and that there are special guidelines that need to be followed. Some common things like flushing oils and greases down the drain may seem perfectly acceptable to renters who are used to living in a home with public sewage.
It is best to err on the side of caution in being very clear about the fact that the property has a septic system and that the renters are responsible for helping to maintain it.
Below are some tips for successfully renting out a property with a septic system.
Ensure That Renters Understand That the Property Has a Septic System
You should include information about the septic system in any lease agreement, whether it is a long-term rental agreement or a short-term one. This way, your tenants will be aware of their responsibility to maintain the system and can contact you immediately if they have any questions or concerns.
Spell Out the Guidelines Clearly
Since your tenants may not be aware of septic guidelines, you should spell them out very clearly.
The United States Environmental Protection has a flier, a kitchen postcard, and a bathroom placard that outline the steps renters should take to be “SepticSmart.” By providing these to renters, you can help them understand what is expected of them to help maintain the septic system.
Another option is providing explicit guidelines as part of the rental agreement. The section below about Septic System Guidelines can be copy/pasted into a document that is included with the lease.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
As the property owner, you should make sure that you have the contact information for a reputable septic company on hand in case of an emergency. This can be the same company that provides regular septic tank services for the property so long as they are available 24/7 to handle emergencies.
Be Sure The Home is Septic Friendly
In addition to relying on your tenants to keep your septic system functioning smoothly, there are steps you can take as a landlord to help:
- Install water-saving bathroom and kitchen fixtures (e.g., toilets, faucets, and shower heads). Because you do not have control over how much water renters use, taking steps to minimize waste can help keep your septic tank from becoming overfull.
- Do not install a garbage disposal. Even small food particles can accumulate in pipes over time, leading to clogs and blockages.
- Do not build anything above the septic tank, pipes, or on the drainfield. If the drainfield becomes compacted it will be less effective at processing the effluent and could result in a slowdown for the whole septic system.
- Ensure that water from gutters and downspouts is not directed toward the drainfield. Saturated drainfields cannot process wastewater, so be sure that you are not inadvertently adding extra water from external sources.
- Do not plant trees or large bushes with deep roots near the septic drain field or tank. Tree roots can be surprisingly tough and invasive. In fact, they are even able to break through septic tanks and pipes.
Have Septic Tank Pumping and Inspection Done Regularly
It is always advisable to have your residential septic tank pumped every 3 to 5 years. For rental properties, it would be advisable to have pumping done more frequently to ensure that the tank does not become full. Routine septic inspections can also help identify small problems before they become large (and expensive) issues.
Septic System Guidelines for Long-Term Renters
By clearly articulating guidelines and expectations for renters of your property, you can avoid headaches down the road. Here is a suggested overview that might be a good starting point for what you share with them – after consulting with a lawyer.
This property has a septic system. A septic system is an on-site wastewater treatment system that processes and treats sewage from toilets, showers, sinks, and other fixtures in the home. Septic systems typically consist of 3 main parts: the tank, the drainfield, and the soil.
The tank is where all the wastewater from the home collects. The tank is usually made of concrete, fiberglass, or plastic, and it must be big enough to accommodate all the wastewater the home produces on a daily basis. Once the wastewater enters the tank, the solid waste settles to the bottom while the lighter waste floats to the top. The middle layer of clarified water then flows out of the tank and into the drainfield.
The drainfield is a series of perforated pipes that are buried in gravel-filled trenches. The clarified water from the septic tank then flows through these pipes and into the soil, where it is naturally treated by bacteria.
Keeping the septic system functioning properly means that the guidelines below should be followed at all times:
- Do not waste water. More wastewater in the system means that it has to work harder.
- Do not flush anything other than human waste, liquid, and septic safe toilet paper.
- Do not use harsh chemicals or antibacterial products, as these can disrupt the septic system’s finely tuned ecosystem.
- Do not flush prescription or over the counter medications.
- If possible, spread laundry throughout the week rather than doing it all in one day.
- Do not park or drive on the drainfield.
SEPTIC SYSTEM ISSUES
If you notice any of the issues below, please contact us immediately so that we can take steps to address them.
- Water pooling on or near the drainfield
- Slow or gurgling drains from toilets, sinks, tubs, showers, or laundry equipment
- Foul odors, either inside the home or outside
Short-Term Rentals and Septic Systems
Vacation or other types of short-term rentals can be a good source of income, but when the property has a septic system there are additional factors to consider:
- Short-term renters are less vested in the ongoing care of the property, so they may be more likely to ignore the rules.
- Vacation rentals in particular are attractive to groups of people, which can mean that your property’s septic system gets strained from overuse.
- Issues caused by one renter may not show up immediately and could negatively affect subsequent renters.
- Short-term renters may be more reluctant to report issues if they are afraid of facing financial responsibility.
The best way to overcome these issues is to ensure that renters understand that there is a septic system and that they have certain responsibilities for its care while they use the property. The flyers, postcards, and placards from the EPA mentioned above can be placed in the property before each new renter’s arrival.
Rental Property Finances and Septic Systems
A rental property can be a valuable source of income for property owners. When there is a septic system, those property owners need to be aware of potential issues and take extra precautions.
Additionally, when calculating an appropriate price for your rental property, you should factor in the ongoing needs for septic tank pumping and inspections, and even the potential for emergency septic work.
Septic Service In and Near Lakeland
Whether it is a rental property, a primary residence, or a business, the best septic company near you is here to serve all your septic needs.