Sussex Realtors association concerned over strict new septic regulations

December 10, 2012

New septic regulations proposed to take effect in the coming months have Sussex County Realtors concerned over possible long-term ramifications to the local real estate industry, as well as the overall economy.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control  has initiated the proposals, which date back to 2007, but require all new septic systems to be compliant with the more stringent standards by 2015. These regulations will have wide ranging effects on many Sussex County homeowners, once they are enacted and enforced.

“One of the things we, as Realtors, keep an eye on is any legislation that has the potential to harm the industry here in Sussex County,” says Trina Joyner, 2012 president of the Sussex County Association of Realtors. “These septic regulations certainly fall into that category. We believe that, while the goal of protecting our waterways is certainly noble, this is not the way to go about it, especially during a time when so many Sussex Countians are still recovering from the recent recession.”

There are several portions of the legislation that raise so-called “red flags” for members of SCAOR, including:

• Innovative nitrogen removing systems will now be required within 1,000 feet of Chesapeake Bay tidal waters for either new or replacement systems. If you live within a quarter-mile of many Sussex County waterways, that means these new regulations will affect you.

• Service contract required for the life of all innovative systems. This also has the potential to be very expensive for homeowners.

• Inspection required every six months, by the property owner and at the property owner’s expense. Average inspection costs could average anywhere between $300 and $600, which does not include costs for potential repairs.

• Homeowners must submit a written report, prepared by a qualified professional, to DNREC every year by Feb. 1.

• More frequent inspections may be required by DNREC, again at the expense of the property owner. These reports would be prepared by a qualified and certified septic inspector.

• Permits are personal and can only be transferred with the written permission of DNREC. This means that no property sales and/or settlements can be processed until all DNREC requirements are met.

For many residents of southern Delaware who live near area waterways, these stringent new regulations will require homeowners to purchase updated septic systems that are compliant with the stricter requirements. That means money, and lots of it, during a time when the economy is still struggling to regain its traction.

There are financial programs that could potentially be available to qualified residents, but the responsibility of paying for all mandated improvements falls on the homeowner.

To make sure their voices are heard on this important local matter, members of SCAOR have begun organizing a so-called “call to action,” where Realtors will, as a collective group, ensure that their voices are heard in Dover.

“When we see something like this that will obviously have such a huge effect on our organization, our clients and our communities, we organize as a unit to ensure our collective voice is heard in Dover,” says Joyner. “We urge our fellow Realtors to join this effort, and we encourage homeowners to call their legislators and tell them that this legislation is not something you agree with. With the real estate market showing renewed strength in recent quarters, it’s so important that we not do anything right now that will hinder that growth.”

To learn more about Delaware’s new septic regulations, which SCAOR believes will have far-reaching consequences on the local real estate market, visit

For Realtors who want to become involved with SCAOR’s “call to action” on this matter, call Angela Emerson at 855-2300 or email, by Friday, Dec. 14.

The Sussex County Association of Realtors was chartered in 1949 and has steadily grown in size, scope and mission during its more than six decades in Sussex County. It is a professional trade association with goals of carrying out a program of education and advocacy for real estate in the county.

SCAOR is a resource for the public, as well as a recognized advocate for property rights and property owners in Sussex County. The association also monitors legislative issues on the local, state and national levels that may impact home ownership in the area.

To read more about issues related to Sussex County’s real estate industry, visit SCAOR’s website at