Purchasing a Property

Are you purchasing a property with a septic tank?

Here at UKDP we often get calls from people who have recently purchased a property with a septic tank, who have started to notice some problems. Strange smells coming from the system….gurgling pipes….even waste water pooling above where the drainage system is.

The first thing our team will ask is whether a home buyer drainage survey was carried out? Unfortunately, the answer is often `no’. Of course, when you buy a property, you get a buildings survey carried out to find out if there are any major issues you need to be aware of. Is the property structurally sound? Are there any issues with the foundations? The walls? The roof? Most of us wouldn’t consider buying a property without knowing that information.

And yet all too frequently people overlook the property’s drainage system. If the property has a drainage system such as a septic tank, cesspit or sewage treatment plant, the cost to replace it if it has failed is often in excess of £10,000. And just to complicate matters, problems underground can take months to show up above ground. So, a cursory look into a manhole and the seller confirming that they’ve not had any problems really shouldn’t reassure you that everything is as it should be.

At the same time, we know that when you are buying a property, the last thing you want to know about is problems with the drainage system. But forging ahead because you have your heart set on a property can unfortunately be an expensive mistake.

Buying a property with off mains drainage, such as a septic tank, sewage treatment plant or cesspit doesn’t have to be stressful – but you do need to know exactly what you are taking on to avoid potentially costly circumstances.

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Why is buying an off mains property more complicated?

There are two main reasons:

  1. Cost
  2. Legislation

Off-mains drainage systems such as septic tanks, sewage treatment plants and cesspits can be difficult to repair and expensive to replace – typically upwards of £10,000. So, if you unwittingly buy an off mains property which has a failing drainage system, you could find yourself on the hook with a hefty bill to put things right. And of course, once the sale of the property has gone through, it’s going to be very difficult to recover any costs from the previous owner. Knowledge is power – don’t buy an off-mains property without knowing exactly what you are taking on!

Unlike properties that connect to mains drainage, off mains drainage systems are subject to various laws, which are in place to prevent pollution of the environment. If your drainage system is found to be causing a pollution, you can find yourself on the wrong end of the law, and the Environment Agency can prosecute if you don’t act to remedy it.

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