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Ohio REALTORS® Work for Better Sewage System Rules

By HOM Editorial Team
May 2015

Sewage systems are a disaster when they fail, and very expensive to repair. The state of Ohio now has new rules for the repair and maintenance of sewer systems that keep costs to homeowners under control — thanks in part to the Ohio Association of REALTORS®.

Ten years ago, the Ohio Legislature responded to increasing concerns about sewage-system failures throughout the state by enacting legislation that put new rules in place for household and other small sewage systems. At that time, existing sewage systems that had been installed under laws enacted 35 years earlier — when far less was known about these systems —were failing at a dangerous rate. The Legislature wanted to take action to avoid failures that otherwise were almost certain to occur.

Five years after that legislation was passed, the Ohio Department of Health convened a rules advisory committee — which included a member of the Ohio Association of REALTORS®—to study the issue. The results of that study in 2012 found that 31 percent of that state’s sewage systems were failing when evaluated under existing laws. Clearly, something needed to be done.

New rules were proposed, but according to Carl Horst of the Ohio Association of REALTORS®, the original proposed rules would have placed onerous demands on property owners. The REALTORS® Association’s representatives worked with the health department, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and various consumer groups to support rules that would allow homeowners to make effective, but far less costly, repairs than those required under the original proposed rules.

By working together — instead of battling one another — the groups were able to find common ground on how to correct the sewage-system problems without demanding such costly approaches. Finally, after four years of studies, discussions, public hearings and negotiations, the new rules took effect on Jan.1, 2015.

Under the new rules, homeowners benefit in three ways:

  1. By allowing a variety of time-tested and science-supported approaches, the rules put decisions about how to fix sewage systems in homeowners’ hands.
  2. By requiring the repair of faulty or failing systems, the rules will make sewage systems more sustainable for the long term, which, in turn, protects property values.
  3. Because the new rules express a preference for lower-cost, lower-maintenance systems that rely on natural soils for treatment, homeowners will spend less time and money.

Thanks to the work of the Ohio Association of REALTORS®, public safety issues around sewage systems were alleviated without putting an unfair burden on homeowners.

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