Suppose that a person A bought a house in california three years ago. The last owner had lived in that house from the time it was built in 1964 until four years ago. When the owner passed on, the bank took ownership of the house (under a reverse mortgage) and hired an agent to sell it. The house was bought with an FHA loan.

After three years of living in the house, A discovered that, even though city sewer runs on the street, the house has a septic tank instead of being connected to the city sewer. The cost of connecting the house to the city sewer system is $25K. Emptying the septic tank will run about $3k to $4k since they have to dig up to reach the hatch.

All public websites such as Zillow and Redfin say that the house is connected to city sewer. A received no disclosure from the real estate agent that the house has a septic system. Perhaps the agent didn't know either. A paid for inspection when A bought the house. Inspection didn't mention anything about a septic tank.

In terms of real estate law, does A have a valid claim against the bank, the agent, the inspector, or anyone else for failure to disclose the use of a septic system instead of the listed sewer connection?

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    As edited, I do not think this is a request for specific legal advice, and it should not be closed as such. However, laws on such matters vary significantly with the jurisdiction. Stating the country, and if a federal country such as the US, or Canada, or India, the state or province would probably enable a better answer to be provided. The mention of an FHA loan suggests the US, but gives no clue as to the state. Jul 24, 2021 at 15:23
  • @DavidSiegel California. Thanks
    – Zuzlx
    Jul 26, 2021 at 17:36
  • $3k to empty a septic without a riser installed?!! That is insane. Are you talking about servicing the tank or removing it? In VA, It cost us $250 for cleaning, $80 for the digging fee, and $100 and some to have a riser installed to avoid the digging fee on the future. California is expensive!
    – ColleenV
    Jul 26, 2021 at 18:53
  • @ColleenV The septic tank is made of redwood and was placed there in 1964. No access hatch that I could find. I had to dig three feet to get to it. Let's just say that it was THE most disgusting endeavor in my life. English is my second language so now I fully understand what "get yourself a shovel" truly means. In sum, $35K for removing the old septic tank and connecting the house to the city sewer. $850 for pumping up to 1200 gallons. $1500 to put an access. Weighting all my options now.
    – Zuzlx
    Jul 28, 2021 at 15:04
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    @ColleenV After everything hit the fan, we checked the paperwork and no, we were never charged for public sewer in our taxes or water bill. My wife and I are a couple of people from city and thus "sewer" was never in our daily radar. The question is, "who should have known?"
    – Zuzlx
    Jul 28, 2021 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


It depends on what state this is. In Washington state, there is a form that sellers must fill out, and section 3 addresses sewer connections. This matter could have been disclosed – the allowed answers are "yes; no; don't know" (or NA). These are sellers disclosures, and Zillow / Redfin are free to be unreliable (I personally know that they are wrong about square footage). A real estate agent also doesn't become liable for being misinformed. Assuming your state has this or analogous question, "No" means that you were told (doesn't matter if you didn't notice it), and "Don't know" means you're gambling.

Let's say that the answer was "Yes". Still, you can't necessarily sue (and win): you would have to prove misrepresentation (fraud or negligence) and not innocent error. You could do this by, for instance, proving that seller had the septic tank cleaned out some years earlier.

Perhaps an action against buyer's inspector is possible, since that's nominally what they might have been hired to find out. But that is only true if checking the sewer connection can reasonably be considered part of the deal, so you have to look at the contract with the inspector (and the inspector's report).

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