Are Landlords Responsible for Septic Tanks?

Written by tyler lacoma
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Landlords help manage property that they own and rent out. Landlords may use property management services, but they often choose to take care of apartments or houses themselves. Landlord duties can vary. Rental contracts specify what the landlord takes care of and what are the responsibilities of the renter. State laws also control what the landlord must oversee and what falls under the purview of the person living in the house. In general, however, landlords are responsible for major components such as septic tanks.

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Landlords prefer to take care of landscaping for the property themselves. Contracts often restrict renters from making any changes to the property landscape without first receiving permission from the landlord. Septic tanks are an important part of the landscape --- they may have special drainage fields that can't be used for anything else, or they may limit where people can dig down in the ground. By placing control of the landscape in the landlord's hands, the contract also gives the landlord control of the area around the septic tank.

Septic Tank Care

States usually require the landlord to maintain the septic tank as part of general duties. Landlords must make houses liveable and provide services to repair natural deterioration that would occur to the house regardless of the tenant. Septic tanks and septic tank care falls under this category, along with all major plumbing issues. This means that a tenant doesn't have to maintain a septic tank themselves, and that landlords must follow local regulations regarding the treatment of septic systems and the bacteria they use.

Septic Tank Problems

When something goes wrong with the septic tank, the landlord typically investigates the matter to see who's at fault. If the problem was caused directly by the tenant, the landlord can require the tenant to pay for the repairs. This occurs if inappropriate materials flushed down into the septic system caused the problems, or if some other action --- such as unauthorised landscaping --- led to septic tank damage. If there's a disagreement, an arbitrator can be called in to investigate and settle the dispute.


Sometimes problems with the septic tank and plumbing are associated with the local area as a whole. Low water pressure, for instance, is the fault of neither the landlord nor the tenant but is a city problem that the government must correct. Earthquakes, which can cause damage to septic systems, may activate insurance if the landlord has proper coverage, involving the insurance company as a third party that may manage septic repair.

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