Updates on Cesspool Matters & Tax Credits | More Information on Stuff That May Stink
You may recall a previous discussion regarding cesspools on Hawaii Island. There is no doubt replacing cesspools with septic systems where no county sewer line exists (which is most of the island) is long overdue. Most don’t realize that the requirement to move to more eco-friendly systems has been on every governor’s desk since at least 1997.
Photo courtesy Clairedenkens/freedigitalphotos.net
There’s no question that moving to septic systems will add significantly to the cost of new housing. That’s a given. But what about existing systems? For some, getting rid of cesspools (retrofitting or installing a new system) is more critical to our environment than others. To encourage these owners to make an immediate change, the state is providing a tax credit up to $10,000.
Anyone located within 200 ft. of a shoreline, perennial stream, wetland (like the watershed in Waiakea Uka), or source water assessment program area may be eligible. See if your property is eligible. The tax credit program is limited to $5 million per year for 5 years starting this past January. To encourage owners to make the switch as soon as possible, tax credits can carry over to subsequent tax years once the $5 million dollar limit is reached.
How Will You Know If You Need to Upgrade?
But here’s the rub. While it’s a lofty goal, it seems there may be unintended consequences of the new law. Remember, for years, the county issued final building inspections without confirmation that the cesspool was inspected. In fact, we still find new homes without proper inspections. Older homes were never inspected. Remember, cesspool inspections are a State vs County responsibility. Building permits are issued by the county.
It is a common misconception that cesspools are covered under the plumbing permit. They are not. As with most things related to real property, permit issues surface when the property is put up for sale. The REALTOR® normally discovers the problem. Currently, the “fix” is to contact a wastewater engineer who assists with preparing the proper paperwork and obtains the approval. The cost is nominal.
What happens once the new law is put in place is a somewhat vague, but it seems fairly clear to me that owners lacking an approved cesspool will be required to upgrade their unapproved system to a current system. It makes perfect sense that an “illegal/never inspected” system will not be brought into compliance unless current requirements are met. This is consistent with procedures applied when homes are not permitted. Dwellings normally must be brought up to current code prior to final inspection.
Less clear are remodels. Remember, approved cesspools can accommodate 5 bedrooms. It’s clear that any remodel exceeding 5 bedrooms will require a new system. It is not clear if every remodel permit will require replacement of an existing approved system. It’s certainly a question you need to ask.
One Thing to Remember
One last thought on the subject of septic systems. Don’t forget, they need to be pumped. Cesspools generally do not. If purchasing a home with a septic, be sure pumping is included in your purchase contract.
So, for now, there are still questions to be answered, but one thing is for sure, a smelly surprise is never a good surprise!