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Exclusive Representation FOR BUYERS ONLY with over three decades of Martha's Vineyard Real Estate knowledge and experience.
What is Title 5?

Title 5 of the Massachusetts State Environmental Code sets standard guidelines and requirements for the inspection, design, site planning, construction, upgrade and expansion of on-site wastewater treatment and disposal systems in the towns of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah. The onus usually falls upon the seller for compliance.

The most recent version of Title 5 (310 CMR 15.000) took effect on March 31, 1995, except for the rules dealing with approval of innovative/alternative technologies (November 10, 1994) and the requirement for the use of an approved Soil Evaluator (January 1, 1996). Title 5 has also been modified to increase the allowable percolation rate for on-site wastewater disposal systems from 30 to 60 minutes per inch, effective January 1, 2004.

On-site wastewater disposal systems include conventional septic systems, cesspools, and innovative/alternative systems. They are individual systems that treat small wastewater flows, usually under 10,000 gallons per day. Over 30% of homes in Massachusetts use on-site wastewater systems, as well as small businesses and institutions in areas without sewers. On Martha's Vineyard, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Tisbury (Vineyard Haven) are working diligently to connect more and more households to town sewer lines. Contamination of our aquifer caused by ever increasing housing density on Martha's Vineyard should be one of our greatest concerns.

On-site systems that are not properly sited or maintained contribute pathogens and nutrients to groundwater and surface water, endangering drinking water supplies, shellfish beds, and surface water bodies.

Title 5 protects you, your family, and your neighbors from these public health threats. DEP, local Boards of Health, and system owners all share the responsibility for the proper site planning, construction, upgrade, and maintenance of on-site systems.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection web site has an excellent section on how to care for your septic system, get it inspected and much more..

Although not published yet, at the beginning of September 2010 legislation was passed mandating any lender financed property with a failed Septic System to have the repair installation completed prior to any closing of a purchase transaction. Cash deals are not subject to this requirement, but are still subject to local Town Board of Health regulations.

Another exception to the new mandate is during frigid months of the year if it is impossible to repair a septic system prior to closing date, an escrow fund is established which is usually 1.5 times the estimated cost of the repair. On average this can amount to about $15,000. It is my experience, because our Martha's Vineyard soil is sandy, that excavators can dig and install/repair septic systems at any time of the year.

Prior to this legislation transactions could close as long as money was held in escrow (usually 1.5 times the estimated cost) and the system would be installed post closing.

Lenders are now prohibited from closing a transaction with a failed system. This will lead to a lot of delayed closings on Martha's Vineyard because Title 5 inspections are usually not completed until just a week or two before closing.

Buyers need to be mindful of this possible complication and make sure the Title 5 Inspection is done as early as possible in the transaction process.


Matthew E. Poole, Agent
Janet Anthony-Hathaway, Assistant
P.O. Box 1596
Edgartown, MA 02539
(508) 627-6120
Fax: (508) 627-6124

West Tisbury
Omar Johnson, Agent
1059 State Road, 1st Floor
Town Hall
P.O. Box 278
West Tisbury, MA 02575
(508) 696-0105
Fax: (508) 696-0103

Oak Bluffs
Meegan Lancaster, Agent - x127
Lorna Welch, Assistant - x127
Phoenix Becker, Health Inspector - x127
P. O. Box 1327
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557
(508) 693-3554
Fax: (508) 693-6280

Marina Lent, Agent
Town Hall
401 Middle Road
P.O. Box 119
Chilmark, MA 02535
(508) 645-2105
Fax: (508) 645-2121

Maura Valley, Agent
Catherine M. Fuller, Assistant
Valerie Soushek, Administrative Secretary
99 Highpoint Lane, Left Trailer
PO Box 666
Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
(508) 696-4290 x1125
Fax: (508) 696-7341

Trish Peters, Assistant to BOH
65 State Rd.
Aquinnah, MA 02535
(508) 645-2309
Fax: (508) 645-2310

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