Sort Your Sewage!

Agriculture and rural business / 22 August 2018


If your property isn’t connected to the mains sewer, your sewage will generally flow in to either:

  1. a cesspool/cesspit (a sealed tank that collects the sewage which needs to be emptied periodically);
  2. a septic tank (where the liquid flows out in to the surrounding ground and solids sink to the bottom resulting in a build up which needs to be emptied periodically); or
  3. a sewage treatment plant (mechanical/biological system that treats/cleans the liquid so it can go into a watercourse).

All septic tanks that discharge surface water in to a watercourse will need to be replaced or upgraded to a compliant system before the law changes on 1 January 2020.

Anyone who is not compliant with the new law may be issued with an unlimited fine.


If you have a septic tank which discharges surface water in to a watercourse, your main options are:

  1. Connect to a mains sewer (if possible);
  2. Install field drains so the septic tank discharges waste water in to the ground rather than a watercourse; or
  3. Replace the septic tank with a sewage treatment plant.

When considering these options, you may need to take into account the following:

  1. Is your septic tank shared with neighbours? If so, consider how the initial cost and responsibility for ongoing maintenance will be divided and how this should be documented. You will need to check there are adequate legal rights to drain into and maintain a system that is shared or on another person’s property.
  2. Does your waste water run underneath someone else’s property?  If so, you will probably need their permission to carry out any replacement or upgrade works. You will need to check the deeds to your property to ensure adequate rights exist, and what the cost arrangements are.
  3. The impact on your property, or neighbouring properties caused by the installation of a new system (such as large excavations for new drains and apparatus).

If you plan to buy a property between now and 1 January 2020 that is not connected to the mains sewage system, we advise you to check with the seller what kind of sewage system is in place and, if a replacement/upgrade is required, consider whether you want to try and negotiate a reduction in price or whether you want to require the seller to replace or upgrade the sewage system before completion.


We encourage our clients to look at the options for their sewage sooner rather than later in order to ensure they are compliant before the law changes on 1 January 2020. We anticipate this will become a hot topic for property transactions as this deadline approaches.

For larger scale requirements, such as estate villages, there are companies providing sustainable water treatment solutions which could be used to replace septic tanks for multiple dwellings, so it is worth exploring your options.

Additionally, please check whether you require a permit for your current or new septic tank or small sewage plant. For more information, please see the Government website.

Our team are very experienced in dealing with all types of property law including agreements between neighbours. Please get in touch to see how we can help you.

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