Shared Septic Tanks

Does your property have a shared septic tank with one or more of your neighbours?

Knowing what’s going on underground with your property’s septic tank or other drainage system can be tricky enough at the best of times – but it can be a little more complicated if your property has a shared septic tank, especially if you start to have septic tank problems.

Septic tanks, or other off-mains drainage systems such as sewage treatment plants or cesspits, can be shared between a small numbers of properties. Naturally, the tanks will need to be larger in size to accommodate the waste from a number of properties, so generally most shared septic systems will serve less than ten properties. Typically, there is also an agreement in place between the properties that share the septic tank, as to how the regular costs of emptying or maintaining the system might be met.

What does a shared septic tank mean for me?

If your property has a shared septic tank, or you are interested in buying a property that shares its drainage system with others, you might want to consider the following:

  • What agreements are in place for emptying, repair or replacement of the tank? Often these are outlined in property deeds, so check there first, if not there may be a separate agreement drawn up for the drainage system. We can’t stress how important it is to make sure that there is something in writing, rather than just an informal agreement as to how costs would be covered. All too often, we see problems when properties change hands, and the previous owner might have verbally agreed something that the new owner isn’t happy with. It can cause real issues between neighbours, so just don’t take the risk.
  • The costs of emptying, maintaining or repairing a shared off-mains drainage system should be shared equally between each of the properties connecting to it. It doesn’t matter whose property the tank actually sits on, it will always be an equal share of the costs per property. Indeed, if your property is the one which houses the septic tank itself, it’s all the more important to have a formal agreement for its upkeep. This is because if the tank overflows, or starts to emit nasty smells, you will be the one who suffers the most!
  • In our experience, it’s best to try to get a separate residents association set up, with a formal agreement between neighbours as to annual contributions and who will then arrange any emptying or works necessary. This takes a lot of the tension out of any problems that might arise, and sets out exactly how it will be dealt with.

I’m having problems with my neighbour and we share a septic tank, what can I do?

It’s a common problem, although that might not reassure you when you’re dealing with the stress of it all. Firstly, find out where you stand by digging out any historic agreements that have been made – whether they form part of your deeds or not. It might sound obvious, but try to stay on the best terms possible with your neighbours if you can. We are often called about shared septic tank problems when relationships between neighbours have broken down because of it. It makes it a lot harder for everyone to find a solution to the problem.

Ok, so no one wants to have to talk about drainage problems, all the more so if it’s going to cost money to fix, but don’t let it cause other problems with neighbourly disputes if you can possibly avoid it.

Help! Our shared septic tank has stopped working!

It’s important to find out what’s going on underground to cause any problems, and the first thing to do is to undertake a thorough septic tank inspection.

It’s possible that, if the drainage system is damaged, each property might already be covered for the cost to repair or replace the system.

At UKDP, we are experts in managing insurance claims for damaged off-mains drainage systems, and can handle everything for you – from investigating the problem through to managing a claim and undertaking any works needed. In particular, we specialise in managing claims for shared septic tanks – these can be complicated due to there being so many different parties involved, but we work to bring everyone together to get the problems sorted as soon as possible.

Even, if the damage isn’t covered by your insurance, we can still help to get any septic tank repairs undertaken for you. If it means helping neighbours to resolve their problems, then we’re up to the challenge!

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