Red Flags When Choosing a Septic Inspector in BC

As previously discussed in this post, the safest individual to hire to carry out a septic inspection in BC is a ROWP Private Inspector. However, you should be aware of the following red flags when choosing a septic inspector.

  1. The Inspector doesn’t want anyone to watch the inspection.  A legitimate and competent Inspector should be happy to answer questions and be observed during an inspection.
  2. The Inspector is available to carry out an inspection on very short notice, like tomorrow.  Good Inspectors typically have a waitlist, and even if a day becomes available through a cancellation, it takes time to request and receive permits and other records.
  3. An Inspector willing to take on an inspection with little notice also cannot request records on file through BCOneCall. You can’t even dig a fence post hole legally without requesting this paperwork.
  4. Any hint that they do multiple full inspections per day is a red flag.  A proper residential inspection can take 3-6 hours in the field with another 1-2 hours in the office preparing the report with supporting photos.  For commercial or institutional systems, the size and complexity can range from several days to more than a week to complete.  There is no means to predict how long the work will take in advance since conditions can vary widely which is why a price range for inspections should be expected.
  5. The Inspector does not request all of the permit/Filing records, maintenance records, land title, and other documents for the site prior to starting the inspection.  In some cases it may not be possible or practical to get the records, but they can be critical to identifying certain issues and an Inspector who doesn’t make the request is likely to miss things simply to take the job and your money. See more here .
  6. The Inspector refuses to provide you with a copy of photographs taken during the inspection.  They are required to document the inspection with photographs, so if they won’t provide them, that suggests their inspection was not complete.
  7. They are evasive when asked if they are familiar with and follow the ASTTBC Inspection Guideline.
  8. They are evasive or noncommittal when asked if tank and pipe video camera work is standard and included in the quoted price.  It is a necessity, not an extra.
  9. They are evasive or noncommittal regarding whether or not they use electronic locating equipment.  This is also necessary for a proper inspection.
  10. The quoted cost is unusually cheap or expensive.  This work takes time, can be labour intensive, requires significant experience and equipment so it can’t be done properly for a few hundreds bucks.  If their price seems oddly high, ask what exactly is included as high cost isn’t a guarantee of quality in this industry.
  11. The company owner or an employee is a registered Private Inspector, but they won’t confirm that the person who will actually be working at the site is a Private Inspector.  Private Inspectors must provide direct supervision of any non-registered employee or contractor.
  12. They have unusually restrictive “out” clauses, where they state they cannot be held liable or responsible for the accuracy or completeness of their work.
  13. They are evasive or noncommittal regarding whether they have and use historical British Columbia regulations going back at least to the 1960s.  Without these, they cannot compare the system against the standards in place when they were installed.
  14. They are quick to offer their other services, such as Planning, Installation or Maintenance.  Some individuals use inspections as a ruse to up-sell expensive, often unnecessary, services. They should be there to inspect, and only inspect, so their results can be trusted.
red flags when choosing a septic inspector
Without a pipe video camera, you would never know this septic system pipe was clogged and damaged. No pipe camera is a red flag when choosing a septic inspector.

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Can We Inspect a Septic System Without Records?

What if the  Health Authority has no records of the sewage system?                                                                                   We certainly can inspect a septic system without a permit or Filing, however it can take longer to complete and limit the means of confirming expected performance parameters, especially on more complex systems.  We can still examine the components for condition, capacity and performance, and do our best to help you understand how to take care of the system going forward.

That said, you should understand the following:

  1. Provincial regulations that dictate standards for constructing and maintaining sewage systems have existed throughout BC since 1917.
  2. The provincial design and construction standards are meant to reflect the actual property and soil conditions, so failing to follow them can have consequences.
  3. Systems such as these cannot be expected to have a predictable lifespan, usage capacity or level of performance.
  4. They are also at greater risk of contaminating groundwater or causing a health hazard.
  5. How new they might be and who the installer was don’t increase their value.
  6. If you wish to take out a building permit, in many jurisdictions around BC you may need an inspection and sign-off from an Authorized Person, such as one of our staff. This is intended to confirm that the system won’t be damaged by your building plans and that it is large enough to accommodate them.
  7. An Inspector should be able to easily identify an illegal system and won’t be able to provide the approval you need without facing disciplinary action, so you should be prepared for this if you need a building permit.

If you would like us to inspect a septic system that was not registered with the Health Authority, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Inspect a septic system without a permit