Its all gone Pete Tong

I haven’t posted for a while because we’ve been going through a rather difficult time with our house purchase. It sounds silly doesn’t it – getting anxious about buying a house – though apparently its one of the most stressful transactions of your life.

We’ve been relatively calm if not downright excited about our house purchase and everything was going swimmingly well until 3 weeks ago.

Now, let me be clear – we aren’t jumping up and down because the sellers aren’t leaving their curtain poles or because we are missing a FENSA certificate for the windows (which we actually are missing as it turns out). No, we have had a shed-load of anxiety because one week before we were due to exchange contracts we found out that there are new regulations coming into force which stipulate where septic tanks can drain.

Its not a nice topic is it, septic tanks. But once you get over the lavatorial element of it, they are quite remarkable systems and the ‘science’ behind it is interesting.

The problem

Anyway, from 2020 any septic tanks that drain into a ditch or watercourse (which is defined within the regulations) are prohibited. So if you have a septic tank which does this, it needs to be replaced by 31st December 2019 or you face a massive fine by the Environment Agency – tens of thousands of pounds depending on the severity of the pollution.

Options

To be compliant with the regulations (known as the general binding rules) you can do the following:

  1. Install a small sewage treatment plant; or
  2. Re-route the pipework so that the tank drains into a drainage field (this option is likely to include a replacement/upgrade of your existing tank too)

You may need planning permission and building regulations consent, so check with the local authority and the Environment Agency if necessary.

The cost of the work is, quite frankly, as long as a piece of string. It could be £5,000 it could be £25,000. It all depends on the system you opt for, the land in question and any other issues unique to your property (such as distance from another dwelling or main road, which can be factors).

Unfortunately, if you are buying a house with a septic tank you are unlikely to know whether or not it is compliant with the general binding rules until about half way through the conveyancing process unless the sellers are already aware of the rules. We only have a very basic plan because the house we want to buy is so old, so we had to carry out a number of enquiries before we could establish that the septic tank was not compliant. For other properties it may be more obvious.

A drainage field is compliant (above); a pipe to a ditch/stream isn’t

Helpful links

If you think you may be caught by the new general binding rules, have a look through the government website here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/general-binding-rules-small-sewage-discharge-to-a-surface-water#enforcement-and-sanctions

I’ll update you all with how this plays out, but I can’t right now due to the sensitive nature of the issue and the ongoing conveyancing work.

Wish us luck!

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