In collaboration with the Bitterroot Valley Board of REALTORS®, the Missoula Organization of REALTORS® is helping to educate homeowners, builders, and everyone involved with the real estate industry about the new rules governing residential property wastewater systems in Ravalli County, Montana. Their campaign was supported by one of the REALTOR® Party’s new Rural Outreach Grants.
In rural areas like Ravalli County in southwestern Montana, there’s a good chance that any given property is on a septic system. When the county’s Board of Health determined that it was time to update regulations governing the wastewater systems of the region’s homes, the Missoula Organization of REALTORS® (MOR) and Bitterroot Valley Board of REALTORS® (BVBOR) stepped up to help fine-tune the language. To make sure that homeowners, builders, remodelers, installers, inspectors, bankers, lenders, and real estate professionals understood the new rules and their implications, the REALTORS® launched a vigorous public awareness campaign. A Rural Outreach Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped them spread the word.
“We are all interested in good water quality,” says Dwight Easton, MOR’s Public Affairs Director. He explains that back in 2020, the Board of Health sought to assert stronger compliance requirements for properties on septic systems, but that the rules it proposed initially might have presented challenges for future home sales. “As REALTORS®, we have a great deal of knowledge to contribute to this sort of process and realized it was important for us to be involved. It took a CFA to our members to convince the County Commissioner to ask the Board of Health to work with us on crafting the new regulations, but in the end, they appreciated what we brought to the table. Not only were we willing to show up and do the work, but we were able to deliver this grant funding to develop components like new septic disclosure forms and promote the new rules in an educational campaign.”
The new regulations, which require a property’s description to conform to the number of bedrooms listed on the filed septic permit, went into effect in July 2021. The Ravalli County Department of Environmental Health will review a permit each time a property is listed for sale, or whenever the Tax Assessor shows changes made to the property.
Using the Rural Outreach Grant, MOR created a dedicated webpage within its own website to provide basic information about the new regulations, including information on how to obtain a Certificate of Compliance for the septic system; the site also hosts an informative video by the County Sanitarian, an FAQ page, and the updated Septic Disclosure Form. For the public-facing education campaign, the REALTORS® produced a tri-fold Homebuyers’ Guide brochure, and a graphic flow chart published on the county website. They spread the word through a series of weekly newspaper ads, a radio PSA, social media posts, and posters at the County Fair.
MOR worked on the campaign with the Bitterroot Valley Board of REALTORS®, as it often does when an issue spans the area served by the two neighboring boards. Says Easton, “It’s a good way for smaller associations like ours to share the workload, the responsibilities, and the benefits. The grant we received from the REALTOR® Party was one of its first Rural Outreach Grants, and we were glad to be to be a test case,” he adds. “We were proud to be able to bring REALTOR® resources to the table to solve a problem for our community.”
To learn more about how the Missoula Organization of REALTORS®, in collaboration with the Bitterroot Valley Board of REALTORS®, is helping to educate residents about the new rules governing residential property wastewater systems in Ravalli County, contact Dwight Easton, Public Affairs Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 406.728.0560.