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You may have found your dream home in the countryside of Devon, overlooking an abundance of lush rolling fields and wooded valleys. The question of whether the property is connected to the sewage system may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when viewing the property.

However, if your dream home is more than 50 meters away from the main sewer, you may have a septic tank on the ground. According to a recent survey, around 5 per cent of properties in the UK have a septic tank. Lela Turkia is a solicitor at Wollens and has produced this helpful guide.

Here is what you need to know if you buy a property with a septic tank.

What is a septic tank?

A septic tank is an onsite treatment system designed to settle and retain all wastewater from a property. This includes water from baths, showers, sinks, kitchens and toilets.

What are the new general binding laws for septic tanks?

The new general binding rules for septic tanks came into force on 1 January 2015, making it illegal to directly drain wastewater into a river, stream or pond. In this dire situation, a prospective homeowner has three options:

  1. Connect to a main sewer – if one is close enough
  2. Install a drainage field – only suitable for those who have sufficient land
  3. Replace the existing septic tank with a more efficient sewage treatment plant


If you buy a property with a septic tank, you must ensure that the system complies with the general binding rules. If the existing septic tank does not comply with the general binding rules, negotiations may be initiated about who must repair and upgrade it. You may ask the seller to align his system with the current regulations before you complete your purchase or seek a price reduction to reflect the cost you will incur while installing a new system.

Mark Iddles 6

How we can help

When buying a property with a septic tank, finding a solicitor who is well acquainted with the complexities of current environmental legislation is crucial. Such a solicitor will either ensure that the septic tank meets current legislative requirements or advise you on what steps can be taken to remedy the problem.

Your solicitor will also be able to identify if the septic tank is shared amongst neighbouring properties and, if so, will ensure that the title to the property contains certain rights of access and repair.

For more information about buying and selling your home, please contact Lela Turkia in the residential property team at [email protected].


Lela Turkia, Solicitor 

Email us : [email protected]

call one of our offices:

South Devon     01803 213251

Exeter                01392 274006

North Devon      01271 342268

You can also complete an online enquiry form. One of the Wollens team will contact you as soon as they are available.

Residential property