Should You Buy A House With A Septic Tank In The UK?

Should You Buy A House With A Septic Tank In The UK?
If you’re looking to buy a property that’s a little more rural, you may have to make the decision whether you are happy to buy a house with a septic tank or not.

In fact, the dream of living a little more remote often comes with a number of compromises to consider. A septic tank is one of the most common compromises you may encounter in the UK.

So, should you buy a house with a septic tank in the UK? The answer will depend on how much compromise you’re willing to make.

With our help, you can at least attempt to answer the question armed with all the information you require…

What Is A Septic Tank?

Let’s get the obvious question out of the way first. What is a septic tank?

If we check the dictionary, we get the following definition:

A tank, typically underground, in which sewage is collected and allowed to decompose through bacterial activity before draining by means of a soakaway.

So, it’s a method used to dispose of sewage when a property is not connected to the main sewage system.

It’s typically made of concrete, fibreglass, or plastic and is usually buried out of site. It has an inlet through which waste from the toilets of the property enter, and an outlet through which the ‘treated’ water can drain away.

Not that there are no chemicals involved in septic tanks, the water is simply ‘cleaned’ through a process of settling and anaerobic processes. A septic tank will need emptying periodically.

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Living With A Septic Tank In The UK

In the UK, living with a septic tank should not mean that you need to make any major changes to your lifestyle.

You can still use the toilet as normal, though you’ll need to be careful not to put items such as cotton buds, cigarette butts, condoms, etc down the toilet. That’s because such items are likely to cause blockages in the system if allowed to accumulate.

You’ll also need to avoid putting cooking oils down the toilet and some cleaning products can also interfere with the natural process that takes place in a healthy septic tank.

Apart from this, the only other thing you’ll need to be aware of is where your septic tank is located. That’s because you’ll need to monitor it for signs of damage or deterioration, you’ll need to avoid digging too close to the tank, and you’ll need access to the manhole occasionally for emptying.

What Maintenance Is Required?

Ceramic frog on the toilet

Providing a septic tank is properly maintained, it should last for at least 50 years.

Proper maintenance includes regularly emptying the tank. This will require the help of a specialist contractor.

How often the tank needs emptying depends both on its capacity and how often it is used, though once a year is not uncommon.

Other then that, there are additives that can be added to the system to help keep things running smoothly. However, there is widespread disagreement over the usefulness of such products.

You perhaps, therefore, are best advised to simply empty your tank regularly and avoid placing foreign objects down the toilet. This may, in fact, be the only maintenance that’s required over the lifetime of the tank.

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Do New Houses Have Septic Tanks?

Most new houses that are built in groups, or which are in close proximity to other buildings, will not use septic tanks.

If a connection to the local sewerage system is possible, most property developers will do the work that’s required to avoid needing septic tanks.

However, a new build property is not immune from needing a septic tank. If it is located in a sparsely populated rural area, there is every chance that a septic tank will be the main sewerage system for the property.

To find out for sure, ask the person responsible for selling the property. A drainage and water search may also be useful to help you see how close the property is to an active sewer line.

Buying A House With A Shared Septic Tank

Shared Septic Tank

If you are buying a property with a septic tank that’s only used by the property in question and sits entirely on the properties land, the process is relatively simple.

However, if you are buying a property with a shared septic tank, things get a little more complex.

In such cases, there will usually be an agreement in place that outlines who is responsible for the maintenance of the tank and what costs are involved for everyone who uses it.

If such an agreement is already in place you’ll need to be sure you’ve read and understood it. It would also be a good idea to ask your conveyancing solicitor to check over the wording of the document too.

If there is no existing agreement, your solicitor will probably advise that one is drafted up. This may delay the process of buying the property as you’ll need the document to be drafted and then agreed and signed by all parties it effects.

Do You Need Planning Permission To Replace A Septic Tank?

The official guidance on this is a little vague. In most cases, only the installation of a new septic tank will require planning permission.

Simply replacing an old septic tank with a new one, with no significant changes to the location will not require planning permission in most cases. However, it can vary depending on which council the property falls under. You’re therefore advised to contact your local planning department for the avoidance of any doubt.

Replacing a septic tank with a connection to the local sewerage system is rarely an option but would require the approval of the water board before it can go ahead.

So, Should You Buy A House With A Septic Tank In The UK?

As you can see, there is no clear answer to the question of whether you should buy a house with a septic tank in the UK.

In most cases, we would say that if you have found your dream home, a septic tank should not stop you from going ahead.

Just be sure you do your research to find out the exact condition of the tank, how well it has been maintained, how regularly it will need emptying, and so on. This will help you to avoid any nasty surprises after you have moved in.

Of course, if after reading this article you still have doubts, a property with a septic tank may not be right for you. However, you may have to abandon any desires to live remotely if you want to be connected to a proper sewerage system.

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