Financial & Legal News

Selling a house with a Septic Tank

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With moves to rural homes increasingly popular, house sellers and buyers need to be aware of the laws around septic tanks and not find themselves with a fine or a property that can't be sold.

You are required by law to inform a buyer in writing about the presence of a septic tank, but what we are finding more and more with houses in the countryside is an unawareness of Environment Agency Regulations, which both the seller and buyer are seemingly ignorant of.

Septic tank regulations when buying or selling a house

The regulations relate to both septic tanks and cesspools, both of which are very common in rural properties.

“When dealing with a sale what we are finding is that the homeowner in many cases is unaware of ‘the binding rules’ which apply to all drainage not connected to the main sewers, including septic tanks and cesspools,” said Solicitor and Head of Residential Property at Pearson Solicitors, Victoria Marshall.

“Buyers also need to know that what they are purchasing is legal and won’t land them with fines and large replacement costs.  We are used to dealing with rural properties and have a duty of care to our property clients to inform them, we will of course sort this out as part of the property searches we undertake, but often with DIY conveyancing or less professional organisations it can be missed and that is when cases of professional negligence occur,” she added.

Who is responsible for the septic tank?

The deadline for homeowners to upgrade their septic tanks to ensure compliance was 1st January 2020, when any property in England or Wales with a septic tank that discharges to a watercourse had to be replaced or upgraded and permits applied for.  However, with the pandemic we all had other things on our minds in 2020 when the property market was initially in lockdown.

Environment Agency guidance states: “If you buy or sell a property with a septic tank that discharges directly into a watercourse you should agree with the buyer or seller who will be responsible for replacing or upgrading the treatment system. You should agree on this as a condition of sale.”

Septic tanks in rural areas

With searches for ‘Rural Homes for Sale’ up 900% in the past three months septic tanks are an issue that buyers and sellers can't ignore. If a septic tank is not compliant then homeowners could face fines of up to £100,000.

“With rural properties in high demand we will see these issues cropping up more and more as there are over 500,000 homes still with septic tanks.”

“Our property team are used to dealing with homes out in the countryside and with agricultural properties, so we know what we are doing, but any solicitor failing to notify the buyer is actually negligent, and I would always urge potential buyers and sellers to make sure they appoint good reputable solicitors,” said Victoria Marshall.

How can we help

If you need legal advice on buying or selling a property in the country contact our expert conveyancing solicitors on 0161 785 3500 or email

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

Written by Victoria Marshall


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