When should you conduct a septic tank survey when buying a new home?

2020 septic tank regulations

Buying a new home is one of the most exciting, if stressful, times of your life. There are so many things to consider and worryingly, so many things that can go wrong, that you want to ensure you don’t fall foul of the pitfalls of home buying.

This is never more evident than when buying a desirable residence that might be off-the-beaten street in a countryfied location. Properties such as these are often unique and with that comes certain considerations such as human waste disposal. That’s right, often these types of houses are what is know as ‘off mains drainage’. This basically means your potential new abode won’t access a mains sewer system and the owner will have to dispose of their own waste, at their own expense.

Obviously, the current owners will have a system in place such as sewage treatment plant or septic tank, but given these exist almost entirely underground and are extremely costly to repair or replace, how do you ensure you’re not going to inherit a load of old…rubbish?

A survey would be the most effective way to ensure your system is not going to land you in a load of mess the minute you move in. But given it will involve digging up a lot of land you don’t yet own, and CCTVs will only go so far in, you want to make sure you really need that survey. Let’s take a look at when you need one and when you shouldn’t:

When you shouldn’t need a septic tank survey

  • Some country piles are in fact new builds and will therefore have a new system put in at the time of build. All the necessary paperwork should be provided with the purchase and everything legal detailed in the deeds, including its adherence to the most up-to-date regulations which came into effect on 1st January 2020 (read about them here)
  • If the current owners can provide you with documentation of the installation and maintenance of the system. This will also need to include affirmation that any existing septic tank has been updated to meet the recent changes just mentioned
  • If you will be the sole user of the septic tank system, it is large enough to meet your family’s requirements and you are wholly confident that the system is in good order, with regular emptying and servicing conducted and it was issued with a suitable guarantee at the point of install

When you should consider a septic tank survey

  • If the septic tank has been in situ for an extended period of time. Issues can arise if they have been in place for many years and only emptied sporadically with no involved checks
  • If you cannot be provided with any reassuring details regarding the upgrading of the system to meet the new regulations – it will be the new owner who is liable if the Environment Agency are to learn of this, not to mention the detrimental effects to the environment will be on your conscience!
  • If the septic tank is being used by multiple properties and ownership is shared. In some instances, shared responsibility could increase the chances it will be well-looked after but equally, it might mean people treat it as someone else’s problem
  • If there is a history of issues in the area such as flooding in extreme weather
  • If there appear to be any issues with the land surrounding the area under which the septic tank is situated. For example, is any land boggy, wet or foul-smelling? If so, this could be a sign of a major (and expensive) issue
  • If there is no plan available to show where the septic tank sits and what expanse of land it covers

Other things you need to check before buying a house with a septic tank

  • How much does it typically cost to be emptied?
  • What is the septic tank made of and what is the likely degradation of the material since it was installed? Has it been serviced or maintained at all since install?
  • If the septic tank is shared and situated on your land, do others have access to it?
  • If the tank is shared and not on your land, do you have rights of access when you need them?
  • Who is to pay for the emptying, servicing and maintenance of the tank if it is shared responsibility? Is it agreed in writing anywhere?
  • Is there enough space to appropriately accommodate a new septic tank if this one is defunct? A replacement in the same location would likely not be possible

Before any land is dug up, a CCTV investigation might highlight some issues that need further investigation or indeed it could put your mind at rest that everything looks to be in good working order.

Buying a house is an expensive affair so additional cost is never welcome, however, the replacement of a septic tank or other waste system can run into the thousands. The much smaller outlay for a survey could at least foretell if this will be required, allowing you to negotiate any reparation or replacement works into the price you pay for your new home.

Don’t let household waste disposal issues flush your money down the toilet – speak to the experts at Proseptic who will be able to guide you on your need for a septic tank survey and will conduct it in the most efficient way possible for your pocket and your peace of mind.

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