Research Septic Problem Before Suing
Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A
REM # LAW 690
By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Summary: A reader purchased a home with a
five year old septic system. Now that they are experiencing problems, the home
owners discovered that many similar systems are defective. Sam and Ilyce suggest
to research the product and its installation, in addition to talking with other
owners, before pointing any fingers.
Q: We purchased our home last year. The septic system was five years old. We
saw a leak in our yard and that part of the yard was "spongy."
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A repairman told us the polystyrene that supports our lines is disintegrating
and repair estimate is six thousand dollars!
He said he put in 17 systems with that material and has had to replace 15 of
them! Can we sue the contractor if he won't help us with the cost?
A: If 15 of 17 systems have been replaced, it appears as though your problem
is not unique. And if your problem is not unique but seems to be either an installation
problem or quality control problem for the product, you should do some research
before you start pointing fingers and figuring out who is at fault.
Start by finding some of the other owners who have had the same problem and
ask them how they resolved the issue. You may want to find out if there have
been any manufacturer recalls of the product that you have installed and whether
the manufacturer is offering financial assistance in the replacement of your
You will also have to make sure that the problem you are encountering is prevalent
not only in your area but in other parts of the country. You can probably do
much of this research on the Internet.
After you have more information, you should try to find out who installed your
septic system and who manufactured the components in your system. Then you can
start making calls to see if they will offer any assistance in the system’s
Keep in mind, that there could be unique circumstances that affect the life
of your system that may not be the responsibility of the manufacturer or even
the installer. You may need to talk to other companies that install septic systems
and rule out that the original repair person wasn’t trying to get you
to install a whole new system unnecessarily. You have to make sure you understand
what needs to be done and why.
While there are lots of qualified people out there, you have to make sure you
hire one to help you. Research the installer with the Better Business Bureau
and with other state agencies.
After you have put together as much information as you can, and you have evaluated
what, if anything, any of the parties are willing to do in the situation, you
can talk to a real estate attorney about any legal options that may be available
Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce
R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your
Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for
them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022
or contact them through Ilyce’s website www.thinkglink.com