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Neighbours' cesspit problem

(11 Posts)
Carveitup Thu 16-Feb-17 09:28:38

My neighbours have a cesspit that is currently draining onto my field. The field is directly behind my house, and turned boggy and smelly enough that I don't want to let the children play in the field and I cannot get a tractor along the boundary to trim the hedge.

My neighbour is a difficult to deal with person. A few years ago I was putting horses out in the field at about 7am and found a cesspit lorry and operator accessing his cesspit through my field. The neighbour is entitled to cross over my field to maintain his property but is supposed to give me notice. He said he was doing it early so that he would not need to give me notice as it wouldn't bother me. It's not the first time he has sent a workman into the field when I have horses in there, and on one occasion the workman complained to me that there were horses in the field. My reply was that I could not remove them if I did not know I needed to!

An argument ensued and as a result the cesspit lorry operator said I would have a valid case to report him to Environmental Health for failing to maintain his cesspit. The neighbour insists that a cesspit is working correctly if waste water is flowing out of the overflow and the solids are left behind, but I think he has cesspits and septic tanks mixed up here. A cesspit should be emptied monthly and a septic tank annually, but in my 11 years here he has only noticeably emptied it the once (given he needs to cross my field to do so I should have been notified on each occasion.)

On another occasion he trimmed his side of the boundary hedge and threw all of the branches and trimmings into my field. I asked him what he had done that for, and his reply was that someone had to maintain the hedge since I wasn't (as mentioned above I am unable to maintain the hedge at the moment due to the land having been wrecked by his sewage.)

Now my neighbours have put their house up for sale. We are delighted they are going - he has been a pain to live next to in many ways! But I don't want any interactions with new neighbours to be arguments over the leaking cesspit. However I cannot leave the cesspit leaking forever. I haven't done anything other than arguing with neighbour about it before now as I have had bigger issues with the house end of the property to deal with (as you might guess, the kind of houses that have cesspits are very old and often decrepit!)

DH is of the belief that a quick phone call to the neighbour will solve all the problems as neighbour needs to be given an opportunity to put things right. I think I have raised the subject before with the neighbour (admittedly a few years ago) and should go directly to Environmental Health to ensure that something gets done in a timely manner. I have no idea what kind of timescales they work on.

I realise this is a bit of a niche problem, but has anyone got any similar experiences?

RandomMess Thu 16-Feb-17 09:35:24

I think you need to report the issue so the new owners are aware of the issue before they go through with the purchase, presumably it could be expensive to sort out? Perhaps notify existing neighbour that the cesspit is such a health issue to your family and livestock now it needs sorting.

I would be worried that if the sale falls through (for other reasons) you are back to square one...

Trethew Thu 16-Feb-17 10:13:31

If there is raw sewage visible on the surface the tank is overflowing - major emergency. With the symptoms you describe I think the soakaway is blocked up so the waste water cannot drain away. It should be draining deep underground, not on the surface.

I would check your property conveyance. If he has a legal right of access over your land to maintain the septic tank, there may well also be a clause obliging him to keep it in good order etc. Does he have the right to dig a new soakaway in your field? Given that this is a health hazard I would also contact Environmental Health for advice. Get yourself fully informed before deciding the next step.

His Property Information Form will require him to disclose information about the drains, and he would be lying not to declare the problem. (assuming he recognises there is a problem). A purchaser's surveyor should also identify it. You might consider telling his estate agent.

I had a problem with a septic tank not draining properly. The ground became very squelchy, the grass died and left bare patches which quickly covered with green algae. It was quite simple to solve - we simply dug a new soakaway away from the original and connected that up to the tank. The soggy area then recovered over a month or two.

LeninaCrowne Thu 16-Feb-17 10:28:03

I know a similar situation playing out at the moment. Are you planning to put pigs on the field by any chance?

Carveitup Thu 16-Feb-17 11:19:55

Not pigs but horses (and children grin.)

Thank you for this Trethew that's just the kind of info I was looking for. The ground is far too squelchy to walk on (even if you were prepared to walk on the disgusting mess.) The grass has died and there are bare patches with an oily sheen to it and the area around it (I'm talking about a fifth of an acre here) is overgrown with nettles.

Carveitup Thu 16-Feb-17 11:20:27

Haha, don't know what happened with my grin there!

Berthatydfil Thu 16-Feb-17 11:39:07

I'm not an expert but I agree with the lorry driver.
He's not maintaining it and is causing you problems with access use and maintenance of your property.
Given that it's liquid sewage that's leaking it's almost certainly a health hazard to you and your animals.
I think you should report it now so he had to deal with it.

Bambinho Thu 16-Feb-17 11:53:37

It looks like this is an ideal time to raise the issue - with the neighbour, environmental health and I would also inform the estate agent. With the house on the market they won't want any problems putting off a sale so they may be more amenable to sorting it out, estate agent might help with a little pressure on them too.

Alwayscheerful Thu 16-Feb-17 12:19:53

I am sure I read on another thread that all septic tanks and cesspit need upgrading to modern systems. Your neighbour will not be allowed to sell until he has upgraded to a modern system.

SquinkiesRule Thu 16-Feb-17 14:23:43

I'd call environmental health and let them deal with it.
We had a Septic system for over 20 years and they take annual maintenance if not more, and it sounds like his cess pit isn't working well, or at all. There shouldn't even be untreated liquids running out, it needs to drain out underground, and filter through the rocks and soil to be safe. Running over the top is a health hazard.

Trethew Thu 16-Feb-17 18:58:08

I suspect you will find that he will not acknowledge there is a problem, or that it is his responsibility. You might find you will need to ask him officially (recorded letters etc) to sort it out. Pressure from estate agent and Environment Agency will add weight to your request. If he doesn't cooperate you may have recourse to get the work done and charge him for it ... That's all very well in theory but a bugger's muddle in practice.

I would repost this thread in Legal Matters for an expert opinion once you know what the conveyancing agreements say

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