Farmers urged to check septic tanks are compliant before selling properties

ORJ Law urges farmers with septic tanks to check the compliance of their systems before attempting to sell their properties to avoid months of delays and frustration.

The company's property law expert, Zoe Smith, said she had seen buyers back out of deals after it emerged there was no Environment Agency approval.

Smith said it could then take six months to either have the necessary paperwork in place or to get the septic tank up to code, causing “disruption and chaos in people's lives.”

“If you have a septic tank, it is important that you comply with the regulations and the General Mandatory Rules,” Smith said.

“It is very difficult for the buyer to get insurance or a mortgage if the septic tank is not up to code.

“We are finding that lenders are simply not lending until the issue is resolved. We have recently seen cases where sales have fallen through because sellers did not give their systems proper attention and they were deemed non-compliant and in need of repair or replacement.”

Septic tanks

“If non-compliance is identified, there is no quick fix. It may take about six months to correct the problem and obtain the necessary approval,” Smith said.

“My message would be simple: if you have a septic tank and are thinking about selling it next year, get professional advice and make sure you act within the law as early as possible to avoid any disruption.”

An estimated three million British households use septic tanks or cesspools rather than being connected to the main sewage system.

The Environment Agency last year introduced further regulations on discharge methods and quantities to improve water quality in the country's waterways.

According to ORJ Law, it is the seller's legal responsibility to be honest and truthful about the condition of a septic tank, and problems with the septic tank system usually arise during a routine property inspection conducted by a prudent buyer.

“Preparation is key when selling a property. “It’s important that people do everything they can to make sure everything is in place before they go to market to create the environment for a smooth transaction,” Smith said.

“It is clear that this is a very hot topic at the moment with the Environment Agency taking around six months to issue relevant approvals. They are obviously overwhelmed by the current demand.

“From a buyer’s perspective, we would also strongly recommend that a specialist inspection of the septic tank be carried out to ensure that the system is in good working order and complies with the General Mandatory Rules and all regulations.”

Replacing a septic tank can be a costly expense that wouldn't normally be accounted for in a budget, Smith said, and could require an offer on a property to be renegotiated if the septic tank needs to be replaced.

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