If you are looking to purchase a new property in a rural area then there is a good chance that the property will have a septic sewage system.
This should not put you off buying the property but there are some checks you can make to ensure you do not end up with unforeseen costs or problems before you move in to your new dream home.
First off, you need to ensure that the septic system will be able to cope with a change of owner! They may sound odd but if there were only 2 people living in the house and there will be now 6, you will have a vastly increased amount of water entering the soakaway.
If the previous owners never encountered any problems, it doesn't mean you won't so it's a good idea to seek professional help to ensure your septic system can cope with an increase in volume.
Just like many other systems such as heating for example, maintenance is key to a healthy trouble free system. Ask the buyer if the septic tank, sewage treatment plant or cesspit has been maintained regularly. If you can get to see invoices or receipts for tanker visits and/or service visits you'll be able to understand how often the system has been looked after.
Every system need to have an annual emptying but a sewage treatment plant will also need to be regularly serviced as it has mechanical parts within it. If a drainage system hasn’t been maintained regularly, this could spell future trouble.
Also, if the property has a septic tank which is being emptied too frequently, then this could be a sign that the system is not operating efficiently.
If you’re working out your ongoing costs of owning the property, find out how much the tank emptying and any servicing costs. You can also ask us for advice and we'll be able to explain the typical costs you should expect to pay.
Some people rely on homebuyer surveys to tell them what’s going on underground but the majority of these only take a very basic look at a property’s drainage system. It is vital that you get a full pre-purchase drainage survey undertaken before buying a property.
Find out if any part of the system is on third party land. Is either the tank itself, the pipework or a soakaway system on a neighbour’s property or farmland? This could pose a problem if you need to seek permission for access, repair or replacement.
If the property has a septic tank, where does the waste water go when it leaves the tank? If the waste water goes straight to a watercourse or a ditch, this is no longer legal under Environment Agency legislation and you'll will need to have this replaced with a compliant solution by 2020.
A compliant solution is a septic tank and soakaway system, or a sewage treatment plant for example. While this is not the end of the world, it simply means there may be additional costs involved you need to budget for or use as bargaining power when you are purchasing the property.