Everyone knows how important it is to get a building survey carried out on any property you’re thinking of buying. After all, nobody wants to take on a property where there might be structural problems with the walls, foundations or roof. But many people overlook the importance of knowing exactly what condition the property’s drainage system is in. And yet this can be just as important to the functioning of the property – and can even be as expensive to fix as structural problems.
If you have previously owned a property which is connected to a main drain, you will know that you are only responsible for the section of pipework that runs from your property to its boundary. Anything beyond that is the responsibility of the water and sewerage company to whom you pay rates each month. If you are buying a property which has its own off mains drainage system, such as a septic tank, cesspit or sewage treatment plant, you will be responsible for the costs of remedying any issues. And it’s not an option to bury your head in the sand when things go wrong, because problems with these drainage systems can cause pollution of the local environment. Because of this, there are various different pieces of legislation and regulations about what you can and can’t do – and breaching these means you run the risk of prosecution.
We often receive calls from people who have recently purchased a property with an off mains drainage system, and have started to notice problems. It’s surprising how many people have bought a property without anyone taking a proper look at the drainage system first.
But I’ve already had a Building Survey undertaken, won’t that cover it?
The thing is, a standard buildings survey will take no more than a brief look into any manholes that are accessible. The main purpose of a Building Survey is to check the condition of the property itself, and will focus on things that might affect the structural stability of the house. The surveyor will then usually recommend that you instruct a specialist to confirm the condition of the drainage system itself. Unfortunately it’s advice which is all too frequently ignored – but it’s understandable because the last thing people want is for there to be last minute hitches in the purchase of their dream home.
But following your heart and not your head can be an expensive mistake. Trouble underground can take months to reach the surface, so whilst all may seem fine when you buy the property, it doesn’t mean that everything’s as it should be. It’s always best to know exactly what you’re dealing with before you take a property on. Often, a home buyer drainage survey will tell you that the system is in good working order. Great! You get the peace of mind that you’d hoped for. But if it does reveal problems, it gives you a chance to deal with them before you buy the property, and means that you don’t face any nasty surprises after moving in.
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What does a home buyer drainage survey involve?
Firstly, it’s really important that the tank is emptied at the same time as your home buyer drainage survey, because this means that our engineer can get a really detailed look at the walls of the tank. Are there any breaks or fractures in the walls? Or any tree roots growing through?
In addition, emptying the tank means that our engineer can observe whether any waste water is re-entering the tank from any soakaway system in place. This can sometimes be a sign that the soakaway has failed or is damaged.
It’s also vital to know if what is in the ground is compliant with any applicable regulations. There are regulation changes ahead (you can download our Quick and Easy Guide to Septic Tank Regulations here) which might require the drainage system at the property to be upgraded – this can be a very costly surprise if you’ve been unaware of it before buying the property.
What does our home buyer drainage survey tell you?
Here’s what a UKDP home buyer drainage survey report will provide:
- A site diagram showing where the drainage system runs
- Confirmation (or otherwise) that the tank is adequately sized for the property and for modern living
- Confirmation (or otherwise) that the drainage set up is in line with current legislation and that it will abide by the new legislation starting in 2020
- Reporting of any damage found within the tank which may cause problems e.g. splits, fractures or any root ingress
- Confirmation (or otherwise) that all elements of the system infrastructure are in place and in good working order
- Where issues are identified, we will provide recommendations (repair or replacement) and guideline costs
All for a fixed fee that is a fraction of the cost of a replacement drainage system.