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How to Educate Tenants About Using a Septic System

How to Educate Tenants About Using a Septic SystemMany US residents rely on wells and septic systems.  If your rental property depends on a septic system, it’s crucial that your tenants know the do’s and don’ts of its operation because it is different than city sewer systems. According to Jane Megitt and landlordology, a landlord can do the following things to help educate new tenants on the ins and outs of maintaining a healthy septic system.

Provide Pamphlets – Provide written information to the tenant on the basics of living with a septic system. It’s likely your town has such brochures if many residents use septic systems.You can also download information to present to your tenants. If they have any questions about what is or isn’t safe to use on a septic system, have them contact you.

Drains 101 – Give your tenants a basic tutorial on drain care, and how to use toilets, sinks, tubs, and showers. Here are some examples:

  • Never pour grease down the drain. Pour grease into a container and dispose of it as solid waste.
  • Scrape food waste into the garbage, not down the drain.
  • Nothing that doesn’t come out of a human goes into the toilet except toilet paper.
  • Place baby wipes in the garbage.
  • Avoid long showers.
  • Report any drain issues to the landlord as soon as possible.

Washing Machine – If the property includes a washing machine, inform your tenant before they move in, that washing more than one full load daily — or perhaps two if the loads are spaced by about 12 hours — is the limit for the drain field.

Cleaning Needs – Provide your tenants with a list of septic-safe cleaning products for the toilets and all drains. Bleach should be used sparingly, and anything labeled “antiseptic” is out. These products kill the good bacteria necessary for the septic function.

Regular Pumping – The landlord is responsible for ensuring that the dwelling remains in habitable condition including regular pumping of the septic tank, and repairs to the system. However, the tenant is usually responsible for plumbing repairs if they flushed items such as sanitary napkins or diapers down the toilet. Pumping a septic tank is important maintenance and is not something you should leave up to the tenant. Pumping is usually necessary every three to four years. Check your state and local laws, as some jurisdictions mandate how often septic tanks require pumping. You might want to consider including a lease addendum to mitigate the responsibility for improper use.

Water Softeners – It’s likely a property dependent on well water will require a water softener, both to give drinking water a more palatable taste and to keep iron deposits from staining fixtures and clothing. Maintaining the water softener is the landlord’s responsibility. Discuss ahead of time who will provide the salt, and keep the softener filled. That information should be included in the lease.

Party Poopers – If your septic tank’s capacity is limited, let your tenants know upfront, and include information in the lease about limiting the number of guests on the property. A gathering of 10 or so is probably okay — a party with 100 visitors flushing the toilets probably isn’t.

The Septic Field – Warn tenants not to plant gardens (especially vegetable gardens) near the septic tank. The vegetables will probably become contaminated by the wastewater. Tenants should also not landscape near the septic tank or place any heavy objects in the septic drainage field.Let the tenants know exactly where the septic field is, along with suitable areas for gardens or outdoor activities.

Contact You – Inform your tenants to contact you immediately if they notice any permanent wet spots or bad odors emanating from the septic field.

Because septic usage is different than city sewer systems, it is important for tenants and landlords to work together to keep septic systems functioning properly.


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