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Time of Sale Program (TOS)

Regulation requiring the inspection of onsite well and septic systems before a home can be sold.

Before selling your home, you must have the well and septic inspected!


Frequently Asked Questions

When did this program start?

The Washtenaw County Time of Sale Regulation was passed June 9, 1999 and officially went into effect January 1, 2000.

What does this regulation require?

  • The inspection and evaluation of septic systems and/or wells before residential property changes ownership.
  • Inspections to be performed by private sector inspectors who are certified by the County. (NOTE: Inspection fees are set by individual inspectors.)
  • Inspection reports to be filed with the Washtenaw County Environmental Health Division. These reports include:
  • a description of the water supply and septic system construction
  • a summary of functional status
  • recommendations
  • The County to generate a written notice either authorizing the transfer of property or requiring corrections. Authorization must be issued before the deed can be transferred.
  • Corrective action plans to be submitted within 30 days in cases of non-conformance.
  • All necessary corrections to be completed within 180 days.

Why do we need this program?

  • Nearly half of the septic systems in the county have reached their service life expectancy, and studies show that drinking water quality and availability are decreasing. Inspections over the first 18 months of the program revealed:
  • 18% of the septic systems inspected were failing or inadequate.
  • One out of every 18 septic systems (5.5%) had an illicit discharge.
  • 15% of the wells inspected did not have adequate protection against contaminants.
  • One out of every 7 wells tested (14%) showed chemical or bacterial contamination.

What does this mean to homeowners who want to sell their property?

  • Homes with municipal sewer and water are not affected. Only homes serviced by an onsite well and/or septic system must be inspected. Homeowners are advised to contact a certified inspector as soon as possible before selling a home. This allows necessary repairs to be completed and prevents delays due to inspector or contractor scheduling. Approvals are valid for one year.

Must all systems be brought up to current standards?

  • No. The Regulation clearly states that it is not intended to bring all systems up to current construction standards. Only those that are failing or in substantial non-conformance require corrective action. The Environmental Health Division considers repairs under the concept of maximum feasible compliance for inadequate systems that cannot be brought into compliance, which means finding a solution that brings a system as close to current codes as site conditions will allow. Use of alternative sewage disposal technologies is encouraged on these sites. Property owners have the option of appealing the Environmental Health Division's decisions to the Health Code Board of Appeals/Public Health Advisory Committee.

Are there any exceptions to this regulation?

  • Yes. Property transfers that are exempt from inspections include:
  • Transfer from a spouse
  • Change in ownership solely to exclude a spouse
  • Transfer subject to life lease or life estate until its expiration
  • Transfer to effect foreclosure or forfeiture of real property (When the property is taken back by the bank, it is exempt. When the bank sells the property to another entity, it is not exempt from this Regulation.)
  • Transfer by redemption from a tax sale
  • Transfer creating or ending joint ownership if at least one person is an original owner of the property or his or her spouse
  • Transfer to establish or release a security interest
  • Premises built within 24 months prior to date of property transfer
  • Premises that shall be demolished and shall not be occupied after the property transfer
  • New homes that have not been occupied

Does this program delay home sales?

  • The program requires the Environmental Health Division to complete the inspection report review in 5 business days or less. This does not delay closings when the inspections are done in a timely manner. Some sales are delayed when the inspection is done after an offer is tendered. This is particularly true if corrections are necessary. Since inspection results are good for 12 months, homeowners are encouraged to start the process when listing the home.

How can I sell a house before repairs are completed?

  • The Environmental Health Division will approve the property transfer if the following is submitted to and approved by the Division:
  • Corrective action plan (which may be a permit to replace an existing system)
  • Proof of a contract to complete the work
  • Evidence of an escrow account that covers 1.5 times the cost of the required repairs
  • Appropriate fee paid to obtain authorization

How are these inspections accomplished?

  • Homeowners hire Washtenaw County certified private inspectors to conduct these inspections. To become certified, inspectors must demonstrate competency based on training and testing. A standardized inspection procedure is used and reports are submitted on a standardized form.

What does this program cost?

  • The actual inspection prices are market-driven, and private inspectors set their own rates. The County does not regulate these rates and does not receive any portion of the inspection fees. The County does charge a fee to cover processing costs. This fee schedule is available on the website. Note that many inspectors include the County's fee in their pricing schedule, so be sure to ask your inspector for details.

When can I expect the results?

  • The Environmental Health Division is committed to processing all submittals in a fair and timely manner. Reports will be reviewed in the order they are received. The County will send the owner a letter to authorize the sale or identify necessary correction in no more than 5 business days of receiving a complete report. If a report is incomplete or cannot be interpreted, the inspector will be contacted for clarification and asked to submit a complete report.

Recommendations for a smooth process:

  • Have the inspection conducted prior to, or at the time of, listing the property for sale. This will help avoid any delays in property closing and will also provide lead time to take corrective actions should they be necessary.
  • Do not involve two inspectors or get “second opinion” inspections. These lead to lengthy delays and confused buyers.
  • Call our office if there are questions from either the purchaser or the seller. We are able to explain the requirements of the program in a non-biased manner, which can help with the sale of the home.
  • If any repairs or replacement work is needed, competitive bidding should occur after any required permit is issued.


For more information, please contact:

  • Your Area Sanitarian (based on your Township)
  • Washtenaw County Environmental Health Division - (734) 222-3800
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