Should I buy a house with private drainage?

Off mains beginners guide | By Sam Warren

There are many upsides to living somewhere more rural. All that lovely fresh air and bracing walks through the fields. But there are other things to think about when contemplating a move to the country - and it's not necessarily something you'd want to dwell on for too long. Drainage. No one likes to talk about it, but everybody needs it! And drainage for rural properties is often very different to what you might be used to if you've been leaving nearer to a town. So, should you buy a house with private drainage?

What are the main differences between living somewhere with private drainage versus being connected to a main drain?

There are different types of private drainage (or off mains drainage) systems. There will typically be a tank such as a septic tank or sewage treatment plant, which will run either to a local ditch or watercourse, or to a soakaway system. If the property has a cesspit, this is basically a holding tank for the waste, so there will be no pipework running through it. If your property connects to a main drain, there will be a pipe which takes the waste from your property to the nearest main drain. The main differences between private drainage or being connected to a main drain are:

  • The financials. If you connect to a main drain, you will pay sewerage rates to the local Water and Sewerage Company. This can vary but is typically around £400 per year. If you have private drainage such as a septic tank, it will need to be emptied regularly - usually annually. Again, the price for a tank empty can vary, but on average you're looking at £120-£150. A cesspit will need much more regular emptying and therefore is a lot more costly to operate, however there are relatively few properties with cesspits.
  • Your responsibilities. With a property connected to a main drain, once the pipe passes beyond the boundary of your property, it becomes the responsibility of the water company you are paying rates to. With private drainage such as a septic tank, you are responsible for the whole drainage system, even if it’s on someone else’s land. So, if it needs upgrading or repairing, the costs will fall to you, and you might find they can leave quite a dent in your bank balance. The number one rule? Don’t buy a property with private drainage, unless you know exactly what condition it’s in. A homebuyer drainage survey will tell you all you need to know, and help to protect you against any unpleasant surprises.
  • Legislation and regulations. The world of private drainage is surrounded by various rules and regulations that you must abide by if your property has one. After all, a leaking septic tank or cesspit can allow raw sewage to escape into the local environment, and that’s no good for anyone. So the rules are there to try to prevent pollution – or to nip it in the bud quickly if it happens. Don’t worry, here at UKDP we have produced an easy-to-understand Guide to Septic Tank Regulations, which you can download to help you to know how they might affect you.

There are some big differences between owning a property connected to a main drain, and one with private drainage such as a septic tank or cesspit. But it doesn’t have to be stressful or confusing with the UKDP team on your side. Send us a message here or call our friendly team on 0800 028 9903 or 01628 788600 to find out how we can help you if you are buying a property with private drainage.

0800 028 9903