01785 223440      team@orj.co.uk

Property expert offers septic tank advice

Homeowners with septic tanks have been advised to check their systems are compliant before trying to sell their properties – or risk months of delays and frustration.

Leading property law expert Zoe Smith, who works at ORJ in Shrewsbury, said she had seen buyers pull out of deals at the 11th hour after it emerged there was no Environment Agency permit in place.

Zoe said it can then take six months to either obtain the necessary paperwork or to make the septic tank compliant, bringing disruption and chaos to people’s lives.

Zoe said: “If you have a septic tank, it is crucial you comply with regulations and The General Binding Rules. It is very difficult for the buyer to obtain insurance or a mortgage if the septic tank is non-compliant.

“We’re finding lenders just won’t lend until the problem is resolved. We have seen cases recently where sales have fallen through as sellers haven’t given their systems due attention and they’ve been deemed non-compliant and in need of repair or replacing.

“I was advising on a property sale where the sceptic tank hadn’t been cleaned for 14 years.

“When non-compliance is flagged, there is no quick fix. It can take around six months to rectify the problem and obtain the required permit.

“My message would be simple – if you have a septic tank and are thinking about moving in the next year, seek professional advice and ensure you are acting within the law as early as you can to avoid any disruption when it’s time to sell.”

An estimated three million UK households use septic tanks or cesspits rather than being connected to the main sewage system, usually through necessity.

The Environment Agency introduced further regulations last year around discharge methods and volumes as it battles to improve water quality in the country’s watercourses.

It is the seller’s legal responsibility to be honest and truthful about the condition of any septic tank. Any problems with the septic tank system will normally arise during a routine building survey carried out by a prudent purchaser.

“Preparation is key when selling any property,” said Zoe. “It’s important people do all they can to ensure everything is in place before going to market to produce the environment for a smooth transaction.

“It is evident this is a very hot topic at the moment, with the Environmental Agency taking approximately six months to produce appropriate permits. They are clearly overwhelmed with the current demand.

“From a buyer’s perspective, we would also strongly recommend that a specialist survey is undertaken on the septic tank to ensure that the system is in good working order and complies with The General Binding Rules and all regulations.

“Replacing a septic tank can be a costly expense that wouldn’t ordinarily be factored into a budget and could lead to renegotiating an offer on a property if the septic tank needs replacing.”

Some old septic tanks can be replaced with a small low maintenance sewage treatment plant.

ORJ, which has offices in Stafford, Telford, Shrewsbury and Birmingham, offers a personal and bespoke service for both buying or selling properties, freehold and leasehold.

The firm’s service is characterised by approachability, efficiency, expertise and experience. Contact Zoe on zoe.smith@orj.co.uk or 01785 223440.

For more information visit www.orj.co.uk