Homeowner shocked to discover apparent cesspool beneath driveway

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Homeowners and home buyers beware. There could be something under your property that could cause serious harm, and it might be too late by the time you find out it’s there.

That was the case for a Wilhelmina Rise woman who discovered a hole under her driveway. She’s been living there for years and just realized there’s a cavern underneath that was likely a cesspool that’s no longer in use.

Roz Luber got the surprise of her life when she came home one night and realized part of her yard was collapsing.

It may not seem like much from the surface, but the hole goes way down, more than six feet deep, and it’s really not clear how wide it actually goes.

“Oh gosh, I was really unnerved. I was shaken up for quite some time,” she said. “The whole thing, my whole foot was in the ground and I could feel my leg was dangling.”

It’s hard to see how big the hole is, so she grabbed a 6-foot long stick to get an idea.

“That’s it, all the way down, and I haven’t — I could probably let go of it,” Luber said.

It looks like there’s some concrete underneath, and a pipe that runs toward the house, so the owner thinks that it could have been a cesspool.

We checked with the city planning department to see if there’s any record of a cesspool on the property. We were told those records do not exist.

The house was built in 1938. We checked with the state Department of Health and learned there is no law requiring that cesspools be filled in when they are no longer in use.

So how do protect yourself if you’re in the market to buy a home?

Real estate attorney Bart Howk says sellers are required by law to let buyers know about such things — but that’s if the seller knows about them.

“Even though the seller has the responsibility to tell you everything they know about the property, there might be some condition that they don’t know about, and that’s where you want to be sure that you have a good home inspector,” he said.

If you’re worried that there might be one in your property now, a good home inspector or a contractor can help also. Howk says ask people you trust for recommendations.

“I can’t say that an inspector is going to find every single thing wrong with the place, but there’s a good chance they will,” he said. “Especially if you hire an inspector who works in that area a lot. They’ll know the houses in the area, how they were built.”

Luber plans to fill the hole. She’s been told that it will cost thousands of dollars.

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