When a commercial or residential property is sold in Saint Joseph County, the Department of Health requires properties with an onsite septic system and potable water well to be inspected and tested. The purpose of the septic inspection and a water test is to disclose the condition of the septic system and the quality of drinking water to the buyer. The septic inspection must be completed by a contractor or inspector registered with the Department of Health, and the water test must be done by a laboratory registered with the Department of Health.
The septic inspection and water test must be provided to the buyer at least 3 days prior to closing. If for any reason the septic system and water test cannot be completed prior to closing, a deferment application will need to be submitted to the Department of Health for review and approval.
- Property Transfer Process
- Compliance with the property transfer standards is the responsibility of the seller. Determining which party performs the inspections and tests and which party pays for them is a contractual matter between the seller and buyer. However, the Department of Health holds the seller, the seller’s real estate agent, and the title company responsible for compliance.
- These standards apply to the transfer of all commercial and residential properties in St. Joseph County.
- If anyone has special issues or problems, please call the Department of Health at (574) 235-9722 so we can work through them with you.
- If the structure being sold is connected to municipal sewer and water, the septic inspection and water test are not required, but a copy of the sewer and water bill must be submitted to the Department of Health with the Property Transfer Application.
- Plan for the septic inspection and water tests early in the property transfer process. The inspections and tests are good for 6 months if the sale does not go through.
- The primary purpose of the property transfer standards is to disclose the condition of the septic system and the quality of the drinking water to the buyer.
- If the drinking water does not meet Federal Drinking Water Standards, a treatment device must be installed on the primary point of use. For residences, this is the kitchen faucet.
- If there is an onsite septic system on the property, the septic inspection must be completed by a contractor or inspector registered with the Department of Health, and the water test must be done by a laboratory registered with the Department of Health. The inspector must open and inspect the septic tank, run at least 35 gallons of water from the structure through the septic system, and prepare a sketch of the site so the buyer will know where their system is located.
- If there is a non-site potable water well, water tests must be performed and reported to the Department of Health. The water must be tested for: total coliform bacteria, E.coli bacteria, nitrates, and arsenic.
- The septic inspection results and water test information must be provided to the buyer at least three (3) days prior to closing. We recommend that it be provided at the same time that other inspection results are provided.
- The septic inspection results, water test information (or municipal sewer and water bill), a Property Transfer Application, a fee of $75, and a pre-addressed and stamped envelope must be submitted to the Department of Health within five (5) days after closing.
- These requirements do not apply to the transfer of new construction to its first owner/occupant or to a structure to be demolished within six months and that will not be lived in after the transfer.
- The penalties for violation of the ordinance range up to $1500 per violation per day and will be enforced.
- This document is just a summary. Each party is responsible for learning all of the property transfer requirements that may affect them.
- Property Transfer Documents
- Septic Inspector List
- Forms and Permits
- Demolition of Structures
For properties that are purchased with structures to be demolished, please review Demolition Requirements. In addition to any required demolition permits, onsite septic systems and water wells are required to be abandoned with a permit issued by the Department of Health prior to obtaining a demolition permit.