A regulation not to be sniffed at! What the latest septic tank regulations mean for you

“Not many people want to discuss the workings of a septic tank,” says Alistair Millar, solicitor and Partner at Tallents Solicitors.

“However, there is a deadline looming for compliance with septic tank regulations, so if you have one on your property or are thinking of selling or buying a property with one, then it’s worth reading on to make sure you aren’t caught short!”

‘The General Binding Rules: small sewage discharge to surface water’

The General Binding Rules: small sewage discharge to surface waterAlistair continues:

“Mostly used in rural areas where properties are not connected to the mains sewerage system, septic tanks are designed to hold the waste water long enough for solids to settle into the bottom, leaving the liquid waste water, or effluent to drain away.

“In the past, the waste water from a septic tank could be discharged in one of two ways:

  1. Into a drainage field (also known as a soil absorption field) or a soakaway system. Via tiny holes in the pipework, the waste water soaks into the surrounding soil allowing it to be safely dispersed without causing any pollution or smell.
  2. Into a watercourse. Via a sealed pipe, the waste water would be discharged into a nearby watercourse.

“However, if you’ll pardon the pun, Number 2 is no longer an option.

"Since the 2015 regulations, known as ‘the General Binding Rules’ were brought in, new septic tanks were not allowed to discharge into a watercourse.

“For homeowners it’s important to note that while existing tanks discharging into a watercourse were allowed to continue as long as they weren’t identified as causing any pollution, from 1stJanuary 2020, property owners must upgrade or replace their existing septic tank so that it will discharge to a drainage field or soakaway.”

Selling a house with a septic tank?

Says Alistair:

“If you’re selling a house with a septic tank that discharges into a watercourse, then the sale of the property will trigger the requirement to upgrade or replace the tank before the deadline of 1 January 2020 and before the sale completes.”

Buying a house with a septic tank?

Alistair finishes:

“Depending on the age of the property and septic tank, you should ensure that the system is compliant with the General Binding Rules, and is in good working order. You may wish to engage a surveyor to inspect the whole system and check that it is not causing a pollution.

“Your solicitor can advise you on the most appropriate steps to ensure all responsibilities and obligations are met accordingly. You are welcome to call us at Tallents Solicitors on 01636 813411 to arrange a convenient appointment to discuss your circumstances.”

Alistair Millar, Partner and agricultural lawyer discussed whether an agricultural tie can be removed