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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Sales and transfers of properties with septic systems

The seller's responsibilities

Inspection of On-site Septic System (OSS)

Public Health – Seattle & King County requires all sellers of properties with onsite sewage systems to have their on-site septic system inspected by a King County licensed On-Site System Maintainer (OSM). The inspection must be completed and a copy of the report must be given to both the buyer and Public Health before the transfer of title. The OSM must use the King County reporting system when submitting inspection reports to Public Health. OSS Property Transfer Inspection Reports are valid for six months from the inspection date.

Confirm if an OSS Property Transfer Inspection Report has been submitted for a property, or to view summaries of inspection reports submitted to King County.

For more information about the inspection requirement call the Onsite Septic System Operation and Maintenance Program at 206-477-8050.

Notice of On-site System Maintenance Requirements (OSSM):

Before closing, the seller must record a Notice of On-site Sewage System Operation and Maintenance Requirements (OSSM)* at the King County Recorder's Office. This is a document that acknowledges the property is served by a septic system and describes the owner's responsibilities for maintaining the system. The seller gives a copy of the recorded OSSM to the buyer prior to closing. A declaration of receipt of the recorded OSSM should be signed by the seller and buyer for their records (King County does not need a copy of this declaration of receipt).

**OSSM is also known as Form 22U by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service

NOTE: A septic system is also referred to as an "on-site sewage system" in official documents, forms and applications.

The buyer's responsibilities

At the time of sale or property transfer, the buyer submits to Public Health the required Operation and Maintenance Program fee and a copy of the recorded On-site Sewage System Operation and Maintenance Requirements (provided by the seller prior to closing as described in the previous section.) The buyer will receive information regarding good practices for maintaining septic systems.

FHA or VA loan requirements

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan:

Lending institutions have the responsibility to determine who is of 'due diligence' or 'qualified' to perform an inspection.


In 1996, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Circular Letter 96-01SF was issued by the HUD Seattle Office. It stated:

"On-site Well and Septic Inspections. FHA's policy of requiring the local Health Authority's approval of the well and septic systems has been revised. Now, FHA will accept on-site inspections performed by either the local health authority or "state licensed engineers." In the State of Washington, "state licensed engineers" included State licensed sanitarians, and county approved well drillers and septic system designers. Licensed sanitarians are qualified to inspect both private well and septic systems, while the "approved" well drillers may inspect only wells and septic designers may inspect only septic systems." (January 26, 1996, page 10.)

In 1997, the HUD Home Ownership Center issued a new policy guidance document stating that it is the lender's responsibility to ensure the OSS are permitted/approved and "adequate to service the property.

While the current policy does not list qualified individuals, the past Circular Letter 96-01SF noted above is used as guidance by the lending institutions.

For more information, contact the HUD's Processing and Underwriting Division in the Home Ownership Center toll free at 888-827-5605.

Veteran Administration (VA) loan:

VA loans allow only local health department sanitarians to perform an inspection, if requested by the appraiser.


In 2001, Circular 26-01-5, "Local" Requirements for VA Notices of Value was issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It states:

"Every Washington state property with an individual sewage disposal system requires evidence from the local health authority (or other source authorized by VA) that the system is acceptable." (June 20, 2001, page 9.)

No other source has been authorized by the VA for Washington state.

For more information, contact the VA's Washington Regional Office at 206-220-6163.