Septic tank - new rules could mean we lose our purchase

(25 Posts)
Sunnyshores Tue 09-Feb-16 21:36:08

Buying a house, supposed to be exchanging next week. I have discovered (as solicitor is crap) that new rules about the discharge outflow, means their tank needs a new outflow.

In Jan 2015 it became law that this had to be changed by 2020 or sooner if the house was to be sold. So EA basically sold us a house that wasnt legally saleable.

Vendors say it isnt needed, their solicitor is crap too, it has to be done and Im sure we'll agree that soon. Obviously we're going to miss the deadline for completion now (whole other saga as we're in rented) and Im worried they'll put it back on the market to get a better price (as sale has already taken 4 months and prices have risen).

My question is how would they make a new soakaway? any idea on costs? As its pre 1983 it doesnt have to meet any bldg regs criteria, just not to pollute the watercourse. Pipework is under the drive.

origamiwarrior Wed 10-Feb-16 08:05:16

Sorry, can't help you Sunny, but are the new rules just about tanks who discharge into a ditch/stream (so ones already draining into a soakaway in field are okay?)

Where would you locate your new soakaway?

JT05 Wed 10-Feb-16 09:24:52

There are specialist firms who would quote you for this. It all depends on the existing septic tank or cesspit and where the soak away will be located. Certainly, you are looking in the £2 - 5K ball park.

On the conveyancing form there is a section on drainage that should have alerted both solicitors to any complications. Do you have any redress against them.

Sunnyshores Wed 10-Feb-16 15:30:44

Warrior - there are new rules covering all septic tanks. Not discharigng into a watercourse is rule 1, so I didnt look any further!

JT05 - Spoken to DofE now and we cant have a soakaway as its too near the water table. So we need an add-one treatment plant, or brand new system altogether. £10kish.

Yes there is a section on the form - their solicitor ticked everything was OK. My solicitor continued to ask for certificates, they continued to say they didnt need one (which was true). With a week between each question and each answer, it has taken forever.... It was only when we decided to google that we discovered it was illegal and informed our solicitor. Their solicitor is still denying it, so vendor is really p'd off with us for asking for more surveys etc.

Housebuying just gets worse and worse.

JT05 Wed 10-Feb-16 15:39:12

This all sounds really awful for you. Is it a house you really love?

Hope it all works out.

stealthsquiggle Wed 10-Feb-16 16:28:00

Sympathy, OP. I know people whose sale fell through for very similar reasons - they ended up taking it off the market, getting the work done (active treatment plant installed) and then starting again.

...that's not what you need to hear right now, is it?

MiaowTheCat Wed 10-Feb-16 18:59:24

It's a nightmare - my parents' house has been hit by this as well and they have to install the whole setup if they want to move on, which it's looking like they're starting to think about as my mum becomes less mobile and an isolated property is getting harder work for her to manage.

origamiwarrior Wed 10-Feb-16 19:09:56

That's gutting Sunny. But presumably this is not your problem (as in the vendors can't legally transfer ownership of their house without getting the Klargester installed and having it all signed off by the environment agency). So while it will delay your purchase, at least you won't be in a situation where you have to find the cash to do the work (and you won't have to live there when the work is being done).

Do you think they might ask you to pay more (to cover their shortfall)? You're in rented, you're a long way through the process, so I think your bargaining position is strong.

Sunnyshores Wed 10-Feb-16 22:00:27

Thanks All. No, its not a house I love, but we've been in rented for a long time and couldnt find anything we really liked. The thing is we've paid out thousands on surveys and solicitor fees to get this far, its taken months and house prices have gone up with the turn of the New Year. So I do really want this house.

My worry is that firstly, their solicitor refuses to accept this is the new rule and tells them we're being awkward (so they relist). And secondly, if she realises its correct and tells vendor they have to do this - theyll do the work and relist at a higher price (we got quite a discount and as I say prices have risen).

I just cant see a positive outcome unless we stump up the £10k, which we could find, but was for work to the house (DHs bribe to me to make me buy the house). I dont want to live in a house i dont really like, that we've paid market price for and with a crappy kicthen.

Its so unfair that theres no commitment on either side right until exchange.

Qwebec Wed 10-Feb-16 23:55:34

Why don't you send the link to the new law to their solicitor?

Sunnyshores Thu 11-Feb-16 10:17:37

I'm hoping my solicitor can talk it through with theirs. Ive sent it all to the EA and asked if we can all discuss. Relying on an EA isn't getting my hopes up!
Miaow how did your parents discover the new law? Cant believe vendors didnt know.

LaFlottes Thu 11-Feb-16 10:22:54

House selling and buying is horrible isn't it. My sympathies to you.

I know it seems unfair, but perhaps rather than you finding the whole £10k the vendor might split it with you? Just an idea.

If you had to spend the £10k it's still maybe cheaper than starting over again with what you've already spent on surveys etc.

Has the vendor found their onward purchase? If they have then they will be keen to keep things on track too surely?

lougle Thu 11-Feb-16 10:40:11

Can you cover it by some sort of insurance, like you get if there has been work done that doesn't have planning permission?

Sunnyshores Thu 11-Feb-16 12:01:53

lougle - good idea, will look.

LaFlottes Thu 11-Feb-16 12:16:36

Regarding the insurance - ask your solicitor to look into this. It would be a form of indemnity insurance and often it's only bought via a solicitor.

tootsietoo Thu 11-Feb-16 12:32:07

Could you ask the vendor to give you the cash to do the work yourselves after the sale has completed - a sort of cashback on completion? I guess you will need to legally commit to doing the work and indemnify them from any redress if it isn't.

Apart from you letting the point go and then getting the work done yourself, I can't see any other way that wouldn't involve probably losing the sale, or at least, not being able to move for another 6 months.

Of course, you could just let the matter drop, complete the sale as is, and then not get the work done. Yes, you may be legally required to do it but it may be that the outflow from the tank is no big issue (depending on where it goes to) and no one will check for years. Authorities often don't check these things and if it's not polluting anything then you're not causing anyone else an issue. You would need to check out the risk ie. what would enforcement action involve? Just the EA telling you to do the work, or could you risk a fine? You can get so hamstrung by regulations these days that sometimes you need to take a step back and look at the reality of the situation.

I was a commercial property agent before children, and when I came back to doing some work after 6 years off it felt like there was double the amount of regulation than I used to deal with - it is such hard work to get a deal done these days, sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and ignore the red tape!

tootsietoo Thu 11-Feb-16 12:33:54

PS lougle's idea is good, perhaps there is insurance available that would indemnify you against the vendor's failure to comply with law relating to the septic tank, and you could get the vendor to pay this?

lougle Thu 11-Feb-16 12:34:23

Link to exemption guide.

Can you read this and just double check that the tank wouldn't be exempt?

tootsietoo Thu 11-Feb-16 12:44:13

We've got a septic tank and I had no idea about these regulations. Useful guide thank you lougle!

Sunnyshores Thu 11-Feb-16 13:57:44

That link is to a summary of the old rules - the govt had planned on making a register of septic tanks, that was too onerous so in 2015 they brought in the rule that it had to be done by 2020 or before a sale.

This is a link to the current rules:
www.gov.uk/permits-you-need-for-septic-tanks/general-binding-rules

Unfortunately our (not soon to be) tank fails the first rule ie it outflows into a water course. There is no exemption from this rule.

It is illegal to sell a house with such a tank - so offering to do the work ourselves after a sale cant happen.

It is indeed a world gone mad tootsie, the chancel search, a +0.25 acre commerical land search, septic tank rules. I think the HIP (home info pack) actually may have been a good idea, at least the vendor had to get everything together before they put the house on the market. Currently the risk is all on the purchaser to haphazardly discover any defects.

Gazelda Thu 11-Feb-16 14:02:52

I'd be sending them the link, and suggesting the vndors take out indemnity insurance if they refuse to do thr work before sale.

Sunnyshores Thu 11-Feb-16 14:03:05

Sorry, this is a better place to look at the rules:
www.gov.uk/guidance/general-binding-rules-small-sewage-discharge-to-a-surface-water

Alwayscheerful Thu 11-Feb-16 14:21:41

marking place, we have a septic tank and the overflow connects to the ditch on the road confused

Sunnyshores Thu 11-Feb-16 14:47:25

Cheerful (name change coming on!!) - you have until 2020 to upgrade your tank then. Sooner if someone complains about it or if you want to sell.

Changing the outflow costs £5kish. The problem (and huge cost) is if the rest of your tank isnt that great. Id recommend a survey (£250ish) when you next empty your tank - then you know what you have to budget for by 2020.

Indemnity insurance not available (rules too new i guess for insurance companies to relaise theres a market to be exploited).

blackjacker Wed 09-Mar-16 16:59:03

Sunnyshores what happened with your purchase? We facing this with a house we're hoping to buy, it's the last issue (like you, after spending £2k on surveys and sols) and we're worried that the lenders won't even want to lend on a property that doesn't comply with the general binding rules and withdraw our mortgage offer sad

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