Changes in the Regulations regarding Septic Tanks

Amended Government Legislation surrounding septic tanks and their previous rights to discharge into a soakaway or water course, for example a ditch stream or river, is to be altered.

The new rules were established in 2015 but home owners were allowed a 5 year implementation period.

If you own a property served by a septic tank which drains into a soakaway the owner is obliged to keep records relating to maintenance and emptying for a period of 7 years.

Such septic tanks must be fitted with a “drainage field” which is the only complaint discharge system after 2020. A drainage field comprises a network of perforated pipes up to 200 yards long as they allow waste water to slowly seep away. Before these pipes can be fitted there needs to be a percolation test. If the property does not pass this test the solution is to replace the old septic tank with a water treatment plant which can, of course, be costly.

The other alternative would be to decommission the old septic tank and connect the foul drainage to a mains supply if such a mains exists nearby. But again this will be at a cost and the consent of and payment to the relevant water authority.

Purchasers conveyancers need to ask the following salient questions:

• When was the tank last emptied
• Does it comply with the new regulations
• Is the tank shared with any adjacent house
• Is the tank in land outside the boundary of the subject property
• If so do the relevant easement rights exist
• Do the current owners use the tank to dispose of difficult materials such as baby wipes, grease and fat, and anti bacterial solutions as these can all serve to block the tank.

A purchaser of any property which has a septic tank needs to obtain detailed advice from both their conveyancer and surveyor.

John Robson


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