Don’t Let The Proverbial Hit The Non Compliant Septic Tank In 2020

Over a million UK homes will be affected by new Environment Agency regulations from 1st January 2020.

From this date, all people residing, building, owning or buying a property which is not attached to the mains drainage network will need to adhere to updated General Binding Rules.

Currently, around a million properties in the UK are not attached to the mains drainage network, opting instead to use septic tanks.

Since 2010 legislation into septic tanks, which ordered all tanks to be registered, a number of policies have been implemented to mitigate the pollution caused by contaminated groundwater supplies in surface water in rivers, streams and lakes caused by septic tank run off.

The General Binding Rules for small sewage discharges (SSD) will be enforced to protect surface water resources from pollution caused by septic tanks.

Under the new regulations, it will be illegal to discharge low quality effluent from septic tanks straight into ditches, streams, rivers or watercourses. Before 2020, the rules only applied to septic tanks installed before January 2015. However, from the new year all septic tanks, old and new, will need to comply with the regulations.

This means that, from the start of next year, homes using septic tanks that were built and installed after 31 December 2014, or any septic tank draining into a watercourse will need to ensure improvements are made.

Compliance will mean properties either join a mains sewage system; employ a small sewage treatment plant before any effluent waste empties into a watercourse or, if the property has enough land attached to it, build a drainage field or soakaway system.

The bottom line for current homeowners, sellers and buyers is that changes could be costly, and all parties should factor this in before any transaction completes.

Ultimately, non-compliant properties sold until the end of the year will need to ensure that the issue is incorporated as a condition of sale according to GOV.Uk guidance.

Buyers and sellers will need to address who will bear the brunt of the cost. It is likely sellers will need to prepare themselves for completing the work or agree to a reduction in the sale price. Whilst sellers may wince at a reduced sale price, imminent changes to the law will mean that their septic tank needs updating if a sale cannot be agreed by the end of the year to avoid legal sanctions being imposed.

Buyers interested in properties with private drainage arrangements may also struggle to secure the finance for the property. Lenders will scrutinise the system a property has in place and this may affect the property’s saleability and safety of lending.

If the soakaways are located in privately held land, owned by a third party, such as a farmer or private resident, repair and maintenance issues may be more difficult to determine, and this may be a snag in the lending process.

Andrew Marshall, Regional Director of Hamptons International explains:

“The changing legislation cannot be ignored for those who are not connected to a mains drain, and the responsibility lies with owners to understand their private drainage system and therefore any changes they may need to make to comply.

“New rules came into effect in 2015, when 2020 felt like a long time away; but it is now just weeks away. We are speaking to a number of homeowners across the country who are looking at selling but have not acted on this new legislation, some of whom are surprised by the breadth of work required.  Ignoring it will not make it go away!  Irrespective of whether you are looking at selling or not, this is an issue that needs to be addressed to abide by the new regulations.”

How much of an issue will this be for the sale of rural properties in 2020?


  • test

    When I moved 2 years ago my solicitor sent a wadge of environmental under cover of a letter saying that they were unable to advise on its contents

    The costs of non-connection are such that, as part of price and service transparency, websites and quotes should be required to state the importance of this and where the cost of advice is not included quotes from suitably qualified entities

    Professionalisation of estate agents should require EPC like disclosure of drainage information

  • test

    Will the current lender of a property take an interest if the owner has not upgraded their tank? The value of the asset is important to the lender as well as the owner.

    • test

      ‘If the soakaways are located in privately held land, owned by a third party, such as a farmer or private resident, repair and maintenance issues may be more difficult to determine, and this may be a snag in the lending process’
      Not to mention the problems of multi user systems. I heard of one group of 14 properties on the same tank. They are hardly likely to get together and sort it out, so will probably have to all put in their own systems one by one. What if the property hosting the tank decides to put in their own system and cut off the rest? This could happen at any time. Or the farmer example who doesn’t use the tank themselves decides they dont want a new installation in their property? Seems to me this is going to lead to a lot of local disputes and a lot of micro sewage plats being installed over the next year or so!

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