New arrangements for small sewage discharges called the General Binding Rules have recently been introduced. They apply to domestic properties’ septic tanks and make it no longer acceptable for them to discharge directly into surface water or water sources.

The new rules

Since 1 January 2020, septic tanks that discharge grey (waste) water into the surface water system must be replaced. In fact, people selling their property before this date have had to upgrade or replace their septic tank if their system did not comply with the rules and discharged into an inappropriate receptacle.

Conveyancers acting for buyers of domestic dwellings with private drainage systems should make enquiries to the seller’s solicitor. However, some homeowners aren’t exactly sure how their system functions, and their replies may not be reliable.

Only a specialist who surveys the existing drainage system can dictate whether a septic tank system needs to be upgraded in accordance with the rules. A responsible conveyancer will always suggest that selling clients have their septic tank systems looked at so they can make changes if necessary.

If your current system does not meet the rules, you may need to make an application for a permit. The sort of permit depends on the nature of your system and the amount of waste discharged daily.

During the conveyancing process, you may choose to instruct a firm such as https://www.samconveyancing.co.uk/log-in-to-your-conveyancing-process to look after your interests.

More detail is given here about sewage discharge rules: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/general-binding-rules-small-sewage-discharge-to-a-surface-water.

Adapting or replacing a septic tank

Sometimes, a septic tank’s outlet can be attached to a local mains sewer. Alternatively, a drainage field may be installed on a property that allows water to be discharged from the septic tank to the ground. If all else fails, the septic tank may be replaced by a sewage treatment plant that allows only clean water to discharge to the ground.

The cost of replacing a septic tank can reach £12,000, so it is recommended that buyers instruct an appropriate qualified surveyor to ensure compliance with the rules. If the system needs to be changed, the buyer and seller need to negotiate. If the seller does not pay for a non-compliant tank to be replaced, as is his responsibility, it falls on the buyer to fund the works after completion.

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