What is a Title V Inspection Report?
Title V inspections are mandatory for Massachusetts property owners planning to sell, refinance, or retitle a commercial building. Title V refers to the section of the Massachusetts State Environmental Code that describes acceptable operating parameters for commercial septic systems. A Title V inspection involves checking a septic system against these codes to ensure that the property is in compliance.
The Title V inspection report, issued by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MASSDEP), consists of 17 pages of questions about septic system design and function. The inspector must go through all of the questions in the document, many of which require hands-on testing. The report is filed with the local Board of Health following the inspection.
The Title V Inspection Process
The Title V inspection process begins with a thorough check of the septic system’s hydraulics. The inspector will assess the individual components and the overall construction to identify any signs of failure. Depending on the results of the initial inspection, the inspector may also ask to see additional documentation, such as maintenance records. This step helps verify that the system was built, maintained, and operated in accordance with industry standards.
There are three possible outcomes of a Title V inspection:
- Pass: The system compliant. No further action is necessary.
- Conditional Pass: The inspector will explain the necessary repairs. Once the repair conditions have been completed and documented, the system passes.
- Fail: There are major problems with the septic system that must be addressed within two years, even if the property transfers ownership.
Title V Inspection FAQs
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding Title V Inspections.
What costs are involved?
A Title V inspection carries a standard fee for time on site and time spent filling out the report, which will be sent to the Board of Health after payment is received. Additional services, such as digging and pumping, may carry additional charges. Note that most systems should be pumped when inspected, and pumping is mandatory for cesspools.
How long does it take?
The inspection should take 2–3 hours. If the inspector needs to dig to access the system, the inspection may take longer.
What do you check for?
The Title V inspection covers:
- The structural integrity of septic tank and d-box (or cesspool)
- Liquid levels and leaching function
- Condition of inlet and outlet tees (cast iron or PVC piping at the inlet and outlet)
- Condition of baffles (concrete walls that extend into the tank at the outlet and sometimes the inlet)
What do your inspectors need to conduct the inspection?
You should provide your inspector with:
- The system map
- Water records from the previous two years
The inspection will go faster if you can uncover the tank in advance, meaning that you should leave one inlet exposed. If you are unable to do so, your inspector will need more time to access the system.
If I have a cesspool, will it automatically fail?
No. Per MASSDEP:
“No. Only those cesspools that exhibit signs of hydraulic failure, are located extremely close to private or public water supplies, or otherwise fail to protect or pose a threat to public health, safety or the environment will need to be upgraded (310 CMR 15.303). Also, cesspools must be upgraded prior to an increase in design flow (e.g., the addition of a bedroom to a home or seats to a restaurant).”
In other words, a properly functioning, properly positioned cesspool will likely pass inspection.
How long is a Title V inspection valid?
An inspection is valid for two years, although the certification will be extended to a third year if annual pumping records are provided. If a property is sold more than once within this two-year period, the original inspection is valid for all transfers, and you will not need to have the system re-inspected.
When do I need a Title V inspection?
Massachusetts requires a Title V inspection in the following situations:
- When property ownership is transferred, with limited exceptions (such as intra-family title transfers)
- When the building’s footprint is to be changed
- When the septic design flow is to be increased
If in doubt, your local Board of Health can help you determine if a sale or remodel requires a Title V inspection.