Considering Buying or Selling a property in Tiverton – take a look at this handy guide for what you need to know about the septic system.

What do I need to know about the Septic System if I’m selling or buying a house in Tiverton?

When selling or buying a house in Tiverton with a private wastewater system (septic/cesspool), there are two main things to consider:

1)  what is required by the town ordinance, state law or RIDEM;

2)  what is the practical thing to do to complete the transaction.


What’s required by Town Ordinance, the State of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM)?

1)  The Tiverton Town Ordinance (Appendix C:  Article IX: Sec. 18-9.8) requires that all properties have a septic inspection prior to the transfer of a property. The ordinance does not specify who is required to pay for the inspection (buyer or seller) nor at what point prior to sale the inspection needs to be performed – time of listing, offer, purchase and sale etc.  If the system fails, the ordinance requires that the system be replaced within 1 year of the failure. (Note: serious failures that pose an immediate risk to public health may require remedial action sooner.)

2)  RIDEM is responsible for enforcing the 2007 Cesspool Act. Under this act, any cesspool within 200 feet of the water (coastal waters or a public drinking watershed) must be replaced. RIDEM has sent many homeowners notices that they are in violation of this act. RIDEM can levy fines and take other actions to compel property owners to update their systems. If you are buying or selling a property within 200 feet of the water, you should be aware of this law and contact RI DEM with any questions or to get a status of the property’s compliance with the Act.

3)  In 2015 the RI General Assembly updated the 2007 Cesspool Act to include any property with a cesspool that is being transferred to another owner. Specifically, any property with a cesspool that is transferred after January 1,

2016, must replace the cesspool with a RI DEM permitted onsite system (or tie in to sewer when available) within one year of the date of transfer. Unlike the MA Title V law, which requires the system be replaced prior to the sale, the RI law allows up to one year from the time of sale AND does not specify if the buyer or seller shall bear the cost. Frequently Asked Questions can be found on our website at:

Outside of town ordinance and State law, what are some practical things to consider prior to buying or selling a home with private wastewater system in Tiverton?

1)  Check Inspection Records – All licensed septic inspectors are required to report inspections to TWWD through an online system. The public can access records from this system by going to . Simply choose ‘Rhode Island’ from the drop down menu for state, and ‘Tiverton’ from the drop down menu for town. Then click on ‘Records

Search’ to search for the property.  When you find the property you are looking for, click on ‘View History’. If there has been an inspection, you will see it at the bottom under ‘Service Records’.  If there are no records, most likely an inspection has not been performed. Note: It may take a few weeks for new inspections to enter the system.

2)  Check RIDEM Records – RIDEM has a searchable database for all septic system permits and installations performed since 1991. Go to to search for a specific property. This will tell you if a permit was pulled and if it was installed and deemed conforming upon completion by RIDEM. Any property that does not have a record in the system, most likely dates prior to 1991 and would most likely not pass today’s inspection standards.

3)  Consider Getting An Inspection Prior to Listing – Though not required, it is often beneficial for sellers to get an inspection prior to or at the time of listing their homes.  Knowing what you have will allow your agent to price your home properly and let you consider how you want to handle a failed septic if you have one. The buyer will find out at some point. If they find a failed septic too late in the process it can cause deals to fall through or put you in a poor negotiating position.  Consult your realtor to see if this fits with the strategy to sell your home.

What happens if the system fails?

Per town ordinance, failed systems are required to be repaired or replaced within 1 year of the inspection showing the failure. Systems with failures that pose an immediate risk to public health may be required to take remedial action sooner.

Should a failed system be replaced it prior to sale?

There is no state law that requires systems be replaced by the seller prior to closing.  Buyers and sellers are free to negotiate this as part of the sale, both in the case of a failed septic and in the case of a cesspool subject to the RI Cesspool Act.

However, we consistently have residents coming to our office who have lost buyers or are not getting offers on their homes because of failed septic issues. In addition, with stricter lending requirements these days, many banks simply will not provide financing for homes with failed systems.

If you are buying a home that has a failed septic system, check with your bank to see if they will be able to close if the septic has failed. If you are selling, you may want to consider replacing the system to remove this obstacle for the transaction and open the doors to many more buyers.

How much will it cost to replace a failed septic/cesspool?

New septic system costs range from $15,000 up to $50,000. Most systems in Tiverton are in the $18,000 to $25,000 range. You will need to get a design and cost estimate from a professional installer for your specific property as every case is unique.

Yikes! That’s a lot of money. How do I pay for this?

TWWD helps to administer the Community Septic System Loan Program (CSSLP). This is a low interest loan available to Tiverton residents. As of April 2018, the program provides a 10 year loan at 1% interest. If you are interested in learning more about the program and applying for funds, you may download the program application from TWWD’s website at:


Please note that page 2 of the program application includes an overview of the program requirements. The program application is sent to TWWD’s office at 400 Fish Road. This is not the loan application but simply an application to request to be part of the program. TWWD checks to make sure the applicant is current on their taxes and that they have appropriate plans for the new system. From there TWWD sends a request to Rhode Island Housing to initiate a loan application. RIH performs all loan underwriting, closing etc. They will contact you directly with a loan application packet. You should only provide loan application information to RIH.  TWWD will not request or accept any personal financial information.

Important Update Phase 1 Sewer Expansion Project

Dear Friends of Tiverton Wastewater District:

We are writing to update you on the status of the wastewater infrastructure projects the Tiverton Waste Water District (TWWD) is planning to undertake shortly.

As you know, TWWD has been working towards installing sewers in the Riverside Drive and Robert Gray Avenue area. In December 2017, after the design work was completed, the District advertised for construction bids for the Phase 1 Project. In response to that invitation to bid, in January 2018 we received 6 bids from qualified contractors. Unfortunately, all the bids came back with a much higher cost than anticipated. The cost of these proposals would not allow the District to award the contract and to proceed to construction.

The TWWD Board of Directors held a meeting on January 22, 2018 and discussed the bids and the District’s options. Proceeding with the project is necessary. Groundwater from non-compliant and failing systems and cesspools threatens our drinking water, ruins the ecology of our Bay, and impacts the beauty, health and prosperity of Tiverton. It’s one of the most critical issues facing Tiverton and we must address it. However, it is also necessary that TWWD conduct itself in an open, transparent, and honest manner and that we keep our word to the residents of the District.

Because the District would not be able to proceed with the project within the “not-to-exceed” costs promised, the TWWD Board of Directors voted to cancel the bids and to redesign the project in a way that would result in lower cost proposals. While the redesign will cause the project to change, the residents of Riverside Drive and Robert Gray Ave will not be impacted by these changes.

We understand that these changes might raise many questions for you. We are committed to supplying you with fast, up to date, and accurate information about the project. The best way for us to be able to do that is through electronic communication. Please visit our website and sign up to receive these updates. It is important that you provide your name, physical address, and email address so that we can insure that you are receiving information about the overall project and about your specific neighborhood area as well. If you are not comfortable signing up via the website, please email your information to , and we will add you to the list. All of your information will be kept confidential.

Please also feel free to call the office at (401)625-6701.

We thank you for your patience.


Leroy Kendricks, Chairman Board of Directors