Communities may offer financial help to homeowners with failed septic systems. Betterments are one way to offer help.

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Communities may provide financial assistance to homeowners for the repair, replacement, or upgrade of failed septic systems using Betterment Agreements. On-site sewage disposal systems options include conventional septic systems (Title 5) as well as Innovative/Alternative (I/A) systems or connection to an existing sewer, if available.

What is a Betterment Loan and how do I apply?

A Betterment is a Financial Agreement between a homeowner and the community. The "Betterment Agreement" outlines the rights and responsibilities of the community and the homeowner for the repair, replacement or upgrade of the homeowner's on-site system. Usually the homeowner contracts with a licensed installer and engineer to perform the necessary work. If you are interested, contact your local Board of Health for more information. This fact sheet provides some basic factual information as it relates to Betterment Agreements.

How does a Betterment Agreement work?

  • The community agrees to provide financial assistance to the homeowner to repair, replace and/or upgrade the on-site system or to do the work on the homeowner's behalf.
  • If the homeowner contracts to have the work done, the homeowner agrees to repay, with interest, any money advanced by the community over an agreed upon period of time.
  • If the community contracts to perform the work, the homeowner agrees to repay the community's costs, with interest, over an agreed upon period of time.
  • The community establishes an account, similar to a loan, which will be paid back, over time, as an additional line item on the homeowner's real estate tax bill.
  • The community may obtain a first priority "municipal lien" on the homeowner's property if the repayments are not made on time.
  • Even if the community contracts to perform the work, the on-site system remains the property of the homeowner.

What costs are eligible under Betterment Agreements?

  • Funds may be used for all costs necessary to repair or replace a failed on-site system or renovation of the existing system, including engineering and design costs.
  • Costs incurred as they relate to hooking up to existing sewers, including the abandonment of the failed system.
  • Costs expended in the replacement of a conventional on-site system with an approved Title 5-innovative/ alternative system.

How does a homeowner repay a Betterment Loan?

The homeowner is liable for the repayment of all direct and indirect expenses incurred by the Board of Health in connection with the repair, replacement and/or upgrade of the on-site system. Usually, there is no penalty for an early payoff of a betterment loan. Otherwise, a homeowner pays off the betterment loan over time, as an additional line item on their property tax bill. If a betterment lien exists against a property, it jumps ahead of any other outstanding debt on the property.

What steps are necessary for establishing a Betterment Program?

  • A community must enter into the Betterment program by a Town Meeting or City Council vote which approves the loan. There should be no additional taxes to the taxpayers of a participating community - the primary repayment obligation is undertaken by the homeowners receiving the betterment loans.
  • Each community establishes priorities for making Betterment Agreements with homeowners through the local Board of Health
  • Information on the availability of the Betterment Program is disseminated by local officials to the public
  • Homeowners submit applications and petition Board of Health to enter into Betterment Agreements
  • Board of Health reviews applications and develops a list of eligible homeowners
  • Board of Health selects eligible homeowners based on criteria established locally and in accordance with state or local funding program requirements
  • Eligible homeowners and Board of Health develop Betterment Agreement
  • Notice of Betterment Agreement is recorded at the Registry of Deeds
  • Board of Health undertakes its responsibilities under the Betterment Agreement.

For more detailed information on Betterments, contact your local Board of Health.

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