Safe, Adequate, and Proper Inspections

Safe, Adequate, and Proper Inspections

Published on February 17, 2021

What is a Safe, Adequate, and Proper Inspection?

Safe, Adequate, and Proper (SAP) inspections are mandated by the Commonwealth of Virginia specifically for property owners who intend to build an improvement that involves human occupancy. These types of improvements can include replacing a mobile home, constructing an addition to an existing dwelling, or replacing a damaged or destroyed home.  In order to move forward with improvements, the owner must first obtain a building permit from their local building official, who will then converse with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to determine if their existing sewage system is safe, adequate, and proper.  

What Does Not Apply For A Safe, Adequate, and Proper Inspection?

The VDH receives a number of requests for on site sewer inspections, however; many will fall outside the scope of the SAP policy.  SAP policy does not address the procedures for a sewage system being sold through a real estate transfer or the evaluation of a sewage system that is being revised for a subdivision plat. When buying or selling a home, it is important to have your real estate septic inspection done correctly by a professional with knowledge to detect any issues and repair them correctly.

Click here for our real estate septic inspection FAQ’s and inspection request form.

The safe, adequate, and proper inspection policy does not apply to a building official’s request for a community-wide need, such as a natural disaster.  For improvements such as pool decks, sidewalk installations, garages (check out here for best services), pole barns, and other structures that are not intended for human occupancy, the building official may make a request, but it is not mandatory that the request be fulfilled.  The VDH may complete the request out of courtesy.

What Happens Next

In many cases, prior sewage systems do not comply with the current health department regulations.  The reason being is that the existing sewage installation was most likely completed under less stringent requirements, not exacting with the requirements needed for a new improvement.  As a result, property owners can be expected to spend a considerable amount of money in order to meet these standards. The VDH may approve an older sewage system provided the sewage system complies with the regulatory requirements in effect at the time of its installation is not failing, and can be expected to function properly given its design and construction for the sewage flow and strength. The VDH is also allowed to accept a certified evaluation form from qualified private sector professionals.

Applying For A Safe, Adequate, and Proper Inspection

It is encouraged to work with respective local building departments to ensure excellent customer service and proper implementation of this policy. After the local health department (LHD) receives a request from the local building official for a review, along with an application, it is expected to be processed within 15 business days. If the request is unaccompanied by an application, the LHD must contact the property owner to obtain the owner’s permission for their staff to perform the required evaluation. If the application is incomplete, staff must deny the application by notifying the owner in writing explaining the reason why with an opportunity to appeal. The LDH will also request copies of septic tank pumping records for the onsite sewage system if available.

To learn more about Safe Adequate and Proper inspections, click here to view the official Virginia Department of Health document regarding this policy.