Home Buyer septic tank surveys and Inspections.
With upcoming legislation changes and the large costs of a new system, buying a house with an existing Septic Tank or Sewage Treatment Plant is increasingly risky. We carry out Home Buyer Surveys to manage this risk and to allow you to rest easy. Call us on 0800 3101092 to arrange a survey. Please see below for our fixed cost solutions.
Septic Tank pre-purchase Survey’s for Home Buyers
Due to the implementation of the General Binding Rules for small sewage discharges in 2015, we have seen a considerable uplift in enquiries from prospective home buyers. This, rightly so, is being advised by solicitors and we advise any new homeowner to have a pre-purchase survey done.
While a survey with us will cost between £250 and £500 the costs to repair or replace a non-compliant or faulty system can be very high. For instance, a new tank discharging to surface water, for a 4 bedroom house with good access will cost around £8-£10k + VAT. A new tank and drainage field £10-£12k + VAT or a drainage field around £5k to £7k + VAT. Even without the relatively new rules it still pays to get a survey done just to look at the pipework. Pipe repairs can make a new tank look cheap, with leaking pipes also likely to cause subsidence issues if close to the building.
We have seen a trend for companies to offer visual surveys, while this may be cheaper we would strongly suggest that without looking at the pipework you have no idea if a system is in a condition fit for sale. Further, some of these companies are asking for the tanks to be emptied before a survey, avoid anyone who says this, without seeing a tank at its working level you have no idea if it is working correctly. We will carry out an initial inspection, if the system is in good working order an empty will not be necessary. If the system has a serious issue then we may need to arrange an empty and return to complete the survey. Generally, this is not the case, if this is necessary we will need to cross charge the empty, this is generally around £150 (VAT free), there is no extra charge for us to return.
If you still do not want a survey we would advise you to obtain the following understanding and get the following basic questions answered which will give an idea of the condition of the system.
What a home buyer needs to understand before a Septic Tank Inspection
- As a buyer, you need to understand the basic rules and regulations you will be responsible for fulfilling when you become the owner. Please familiarise yourself with our introductory guide.
- What type of system does the house have currently, what is it constructed of, where is it located and where does it discharge to? Ideally, this will be supported by the deeds.
- When was the system installed? Who by and what are the details of the products used and status of any warranties?
- Are there records held with the local authority for associated planning permission or building control sign-off?
- The seller is responsible for providing you with the maintenance and emptying documentation associated with the system ask them if they have complied with this requirement? Ask for the waste transfer notes showing volumes and frequency of empties.
- Ask if the system just serves the property you are buying? How many bedrooms does it serve? Do any of the neighbouring properties hold a right to discharge on the property? Make sure you get this in writing.
- Ask if any changes have been made to the original system? The owner is required to provide this information under the General Binding Rules.
- Research the area, is the property in a ground water protection zone, is it in a site of special scientific interest, and are there any nearby wells?
- Are there any historical problems especially during wet weather, when either the groundwater sits closer to the surface or rainwater gets into the wastewater treatment system?
- Once you have some information about the current system carry out some basic checks. Is the ground soft or waterlogged around the tank or discharge area? Are there any signs of subsidence around the tank?
How much is a Septic Tank Survey and what is covered by it?
(Please note that an empty of the tank is not included in the below, if this is necessary, due to a serious issue with the system then the cost of this will be an addition, we will not charge for having to re-visit. The objective of this is to save you money by not requiring an unnecessary empty)
Home Buyer Septic CCTV Drainage Inspection Surveys
Why should I have a Home Buyer Drainage Survey?
If you have always lived in a property connected to mains drainage then moving to a property with a private drainage system is different. With a private system, cesspit, septic tank or sewage treatment plant, you will find yourself responsible for far more. You will need to maintain the system, ensure it works adequately and that the effluent is of sufficient quality.
If you go back 20 years a septic tank in the garden was an easily forgettable aspect of buying a house. Regulation on effluent output was weak and if you did not mind a bit of a whiff and regular emptying. Then you could likely get away with pumping out really polluting effluent.
However, fast forward to today‘s regulatory environment with further legislation landing in 2020 and the picture is vastly different. Regulation on where and what quality of effluent can be discharged is in place. Failure to comply can result in prosecution. It is now also a statutory requirement to have a tank annually serviced and to maintain records of this.
What is the worst case if I do not have a survey?
You buy a new house that does not meet regulatory standards, you will be prosecuted. You will also likely have to get the system to meet the required standards which can be very costly, especially if you have not factored the spend in.
A survey also gives you an idea of what condition the system is in. A new sewage treatment plant and drainage field will likely cost over ten thousand pounds. Our surveys will tell you what condition the current system is in and the cost of any works needed to remedy issues.
As a default please see our regulation guide to get you up to speed.
We have also produced a guide on Buying a house with a Septic tank, Cesspit or sewage treatment plant.
Does a Building survey include a drainage survey?
The answer to this is yes and no but ultimately no. Generally, the purpose of a normal building survey is to check the structural integrity of the house. It may include a cursory viewing of the system but certainly not to the extent that is necessary.
We have also noticed over the past year that solicitors are insisting on a Drainage survey for any property with a fully private system. This is driven by the changing legislation detailed above.
What is the cost of a Septic Tank Inspection?
A formal home buyer or pre-purchase report costs £500 + VAT. This gives those buying a house with an old septic system, cesspit, or sewage treatment plant the comfort and assurance they need. If you would like us to just pop in and give the system a once over and verbally let you know the condition of the system we can do this for £250.
Who should pay for the drainage survey?
Under the General Binding Rules, the vendor must supply certain information concerning their Septic System. This includes the list below. I have not encountered a situation where a vendor has been able to adequately supply the information required. Beyond this, there is no firm guidance and generally, it is the purchaser who ends up paying for the survey.
- a description of the treatment system and drainage system
- the location of the main parts of the treatment system, drainage system and discharge point
- details of any changes made to the treatment system and drainage system
- details of how the treatment system and drainage system should be maintained and the maintenance manual, if you have one
- maintenance records,
How does a Home Buyers Drainage Survey work?
Our primary goal when we arrive to survey and investigate the system is to simply identify how it currently works. We normally start with the tank, is it a Cesspit, a Septic tank or Sewage treatment plant. We will then access the tank to get an idea of its current condition. You can tell a lot about how well a system is working by looking at its working state. Only at this point would we empty the tank, if necessary, to look at the structural integrity of the tank. From here we map and inspect all of the pipework, chambers and outflows before giving a conclusion on the condition of each individual component. Our other core goal is to ascertain where the system is discharging to and how effective this is.
Once we have thoroughly mapped, inspected and documented the system we look to conclude on it. The key elements we want to conclude are firstly; is the system compliant with the upcoming legislation changes. If you are selling a house the law that comes into general effect on the 1st of January 2020 immediately applies to you. We then look to conclude on whether the system would be compliant with current building regulations. From here we talk about the general condition of the tank and any points of note.
The main body of the report then looks at each key section of the system. For each section, we give a situation report and conclude on its functionality.
We try to give a good summary of the tanks current condition, how it works and any points to note. For example, the adjacent tank had clearly not been annually serviced as required and had some severe root ingress. Our conclusion was that the tank needed to be serviced with the medium section potentially needing replacement. The tank in the condition it was would not have been meeting its effluent quality requirements. This would likely lead to prosecution or a fine if discovered.
A system will have any number of chambers serving it. A chamber normally exists where multiple sections of drain meet. For instance, the drainpipe serving your kitchen meeting the pipe from your bathroom. These intersections in the drainage highway can tell us allot about your system. Firstly the inspection can reveal elements added to the system post installation and their quality. Residues from each section can you about their condition. For instance, the soil may indicate a section of a broken pipe or fat a likely blockage.
The Pipe Work:
We camera all of the runs between chambers. We do this to look for any damage or blockages in the pipework. The most common damage is caused by movement in the pipe which creates displacement at the joints. These displacements allow roots to get in which can heavily damage a section of pipework. Repairing or replacing pipework can be deceptively expensive and is well worth knowing about upfront.
Why choose Homeseptic?
All of our lead engineers actually have over 20 years experience in the drainage sector. A lead engineer will always undertake the survey.
The company is a partnership of friends who all own a stake in the company and its reputation. We formed the company because we were sick of the way other drainage firms operated. We will not sell you work that is not necessary and we genuinely take pride in our work.
The company is based in the New Forest, where we all grew up. As a group, we care about our environment and have a genuine interest in preserving it. We do operate outside of the forest covering Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset and West Sussex.