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New rules for septic tanks

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New rules for septic tanks

New rules for small sewage discharges to surface water have been introduced and certain time limits for compliance with them are fast approaching. These are called the General Binding Rules and they apply to domestic septic tanks. Under these rules it is no longer permitted for septic tanks to discharge to water courses or surface water.

Following a period of grace, from the 1st January 2020, any septic tank which discharges grey (waste) water to the surface water system must be replaced.  Furthermore, anyone selling their property prior to this date must replace or upgrade their septic tank if the system is not compliant with the Rules.  If the septic tank discharges directly into a watercourse, or if the tank does not drain into an appropriate drainage field or infiltration system, it may not comply with the General Binding Rules and may have to be replaced. 

You can find more information about the new rules using the following link.

When we act for buyers of properties which have a private drainage system, we always raise specific enquiries of the seller’s solicitor. However some homeowners are not always sure themselves how their system works, and it may not be safe to rely on the replies they give to enquiries, even where given in good faith.

We cannot advise whether the drainage system at a given property will need to be changed.  This is something which can only be ascertained by a specialist who can carry out a survey of the existing system to check if it complies with the General Binding Rules.  As responsible conveyancers we will always recommend to our selling clients that they have their septic tank system checked so that if necessary they can comply with their own responsibilities.

If the current system does not comply with the Rules you may have to apply for a permit. The type of permit required depends on the nature and size of the system and how much waste is discharged to it each day. The link mentioned above will provide more detailed information about what is required.

In some circumstances, the outlet from a septic tank can be connected to a nearby mains sewer. If this is not possible, a special drainage field can be installed on the property which will then permit the septic tank to discharge water to the ground. As a last resort, the septic tank can be replaced with a sewage treatment plant which ensures that only clean water discharges to the ground.

It can cost up to £12,000 to replace a septic tank. It is therefore essential to ensure it is compliant and we would always recommend that a buyer client instructs an appropriate surveyor who can advise.  If the current arrangements are not compliant, then it would be the responsibility of the seller to pay for the tank to be replaced.  If this is not done, then it will fall to the buyer to pay for the works after completion. If it is established that the system does need to be changed, this should be addressed with the seller by way of negotiation.

If you are looking to buy or sell a property, please contact any of our branches and ask to speak to one of our experienced property lawyers. Alternatively you can request a call back via our website.