Apr 25, 2011

Tip 17-2011: Septic Permit, Certificate of Occupancy & Number of Bedrooms

(Septic Permit, Certificate of Occupancy and Number of Bedrooms)  When a septic permit for a new house is issued by the local Health Department, it specifies the number of bedrooms approved for the septic system.  This information is also given to the local governmental office issuing the Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  Sometimes even the CO states the number of authorized bedrooms.

The local jurisdiction will normally allow for maximum occupancy of two persons for each approved bedroom.  For example, a three bedroom house can be occupied by no more than six persons.
What happens if the fourth bedroom is listed as a “study” in a three bedroom approved house?  The initial homeowner should check the building permit, septic permit and/or CO to verify the number of approved bedrooms and maximum number of persons who can occupy the house. 

But then what happens, if on resale, everyone forgets that the fourth bedroom is really a study or the homeowner has added a bedroom and bath in the basement without increasing the septic field?  Unfortunately no one usually checks the old CO or septic permit (assuming one is available) to verify the number of approved bedrooms. 

There is no easy solution to these problems. The best solution is to avoid the problem all together.  Builders should build the correct sized septic system based on the actual number of bedrooms.  Realtors, Purchasers and Settlement Agents could exchange information on the number of bedrooms in the new house, and the number of bedrooms approved for the septic permit and CO.  Homeowners should not finish the basement and add a guest bedroom without, if required, increasing the size of the septic field.  The main point of this Tip is just to be aware of the problem.

Please contact our firm if you have questions or need legal advice.

Senior Partner
William D. Tucker, III
Tucker Griffin Barnes P.C.
Charlottesville, Virginia


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