One of the things that Massachusetts home owners who are serviced by a private septic system need to be keenly aware of when selling their home is to make sure they do not misrepresent the bedroom count. When a home is serviced by a septic system in Massachusetts the advertised bedroom count must meet the actual septic system design capacity.
This is a critical piece of information for sellers to understand because there are quite a few Realtors that have no idea that this law even exists.
There have been quite a few cases where Massachusetts Realtors have put homes on the market where the advertised bedroom count did not match the septic systems capacity. For example, homes have been listed in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) where the bedroom count was shown as four when in fact later on the buyer discovers the septic system was only rated for three bedrooms.
This of course creates a situation where both the seller and Realtor can be sued by the buyer. Not a pleasant situation and something that could easily be avoided just by knowing how a simple law like this works in Real Estate.
All septic systems are rated according their bedroom capacity. When someone says the septic system is “rated” for four bedrooms it means that the system will handle the waste generated by four bedrooms. I have seen many people become confused about this topic and think that bathroom counts have something to do with how septic systems get rated.
The bathroom count has nothing to do with it at all! When you think about it this makes perfect sense. The amount of people living in a home determines how much a septic system gets taxed, not how many bathrooms. Six people living in a home would obviously generate more waste than two people.
Where sellers and Realtors get into to trouble is when there are rooms in a home that are counted and marketed as bedrooms when in fact they are not. As an example, you could have a home that has three bedrooms on the 2nd floor and another room on the 1st floor that is called a “bedroom”. This room has a door, a closet and a window large enough for a person to escape through…all requirements of a bedroom.
The problem, however, is that if this home has a septic system that is rated for only three bedrooms, it is not a four bedroom home and should not be marketed as such.
There are certainly differences in market value between three and four bedroom homes regardless of the overall size of the house. If a buyer relies on incorrect information when deciding what to pay for a home, it is easy to see why they would have a strong case in court.
Another common situation that can occur is when a seller adds an addition to their home. If the addition happens to be what you are calling a bedroom but there has been no corresponding “upgrade” to the septic system, you can not advertise it as such.
Whenever there is any doubt about the bedroom count, a Realtor should be verifying the records at the local town hall. Most board of health agencies should have this information on record either via a septic system design or “septic as built”.
The other way a septic systems capacity can be verified is when the Title V is performed. In Massachusetts whenever a home is transferred to someone other than an immediate family member a Title V test must be completed. The septic company that completes the Title V will issue a report which will include information on the design capacity of the system.
I know 1st hand based on things I see on a daily basis in the MLS, like lousy pictures and poor or no marketing write ups that sellers often times do not check up on what their Realtor is doing for them. In the court of law ignorance is not an excuse. If you are selling a Massachusetts home you should always ask your Real Estate agent for a print out of what has been published so you can check it for accuracy!
Want to know more about Title V septic systems and selling a Massachusetts home? View my in depth article about Massachusetts Title V and home selling by clicking the link.
About the author: The above Real Estate information on Massachusetts bedroom counts with septic systems was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.
Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Upton, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.