A word from Bradleys Chartered Surveyors..

- Wed 15 May 2024

What you need to know about buying/selling a property with a sceptic tank…

The current law for septic tanks is found in the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 and these created the General Binding Rules (GBRs) for septic tanks or small sewage treatment plants for domestic use.  The rules were introduced to reduce pollution into watercourses by preventing septic tanks discharging directly into watercourses such as rivers or streams.  Under the Rules any septic tank which discharges into a watercourse must be replaced or upgraded.  There are several ways to replace a tank to include connecting (if possible), to the mains drainage system, installing a drainage field (infiltration system) or replacing with a sewage treatment plant.  

What you need to do if you are selling a house with a septic tank

If you have a property with a septic tank that discharges directly to surface water the guidance states “that you need to take action as soon as possible to make sure it meets the requirements”.

If your septic tank discharges to surface water then it is important to address this now and you will certainly have to deal with this issue upon any proposed sale.  Any potential purchaser of your property may require upgrade works to be completed prior to completion or may seek a price reduction in the purchase price to take into account the system will need to be upgraded once they have purchased the property.  Therefore this matter should be addressed at an early stage in the conveyancing process so that appropriate wording can be added to the contract if required.

What you need to do if you are buying a house with a septic tank

Your solicitor should raise specific enquiries relating to the septic tank.  Questions include where is the tank located, when was it installed, is it shared with any other properties, when was it last serviced, can the seller provide copies of any planning permission, building regulations approval, warranties or indemnities relating to the septic tank etc.  You should satisfy yourself that any system is in good working order and does not cause pollution (and therefore is in breach of the rules).  It is also particularly important to check that the appropriate rights and obligations are in place if the system is located on someone else’s property.


Property owners should be aware of the General Binding Rules and must consider whether their septic tank complies.  Further advice should be sought from a competent engineer/drainage contractor if you need help understanding what treatment system you currently have and whether it is compliant. 

If your system causes pollution, you may be committing and offence.  The Environment Agency will usually try to provide advice and guidance to help resolve the issue but if your discharges continue to cause pollution then they may take enforcement action against you. 

Bradleys Chartered Surveyors provide a range of services in addition to the Homebuyers and Building Survey options for anyone buying a property. Additional services include Probate valuations, matrimonial valuations, boundary disputes, concrete testing and lease extensions to name a few.

For further information on the services offered by Bradleys Chartered Surveyors visit www.bradleyssurveyors.co.uk