Conveyancer failed to warn you of a non-compliant septic tank?
The process of purchasing a house can be incredibly stressful and this is only heightened when the property is served by a septic tank. In this situation, you rely on your conveyancer to remove the risk, worry and stress associated with purchasing a property, and to determine the condition and legality of the sewage system before you commit to the purchase.
If a conveyancing solicitor fails to advise you of the type of septic tank at your property or to inform you of the present regulations which affect drainage systems which later result in fines, unexpected repairs, or upgrades, you may have grounds for a professional negligence claim.
Furthermore, failure to identify these issues could result in environmental damage, cause the value of your property to drop, and lead to enforcement action by the Environment Agency.
In 2015 the General Binding Rules came into effect with the aim of regulating the use of septic tanks across England and reducing pollution through Small Sewage Discharges.
With a five-year deadline, homeowners should have arranged to ensure their septic tanks were compliant with the new regulations by January 2020. Owners of non-compliant properties may find it very difficult to obtain home insurance or even a mortgage.
If you have purchased a property since 2015 which is serviced by a septic tank, your conveyancer should have been aware of the regulation change and advised you based on this knowledge.
Failure to do so is tantamount to negligence on their part and could leave you facing a fine from the Environment Agency, a devalued property, and could leave you with a bill for thousands of pounds in fees in order to become compliant.
The GBRs were brought into effect by the Environment Agency in order to help protect the environment, public health, and to keep the UK’s water ways free from pollution.
Since the implementation of the GBRs, the number of septic tanks in the UK has decreased, the quality of discharged water has improved, watercourses and other areas are better protected, and the UK’s water resources are being used in a more sustainable way.
The regulations apply to all septic tanks and sewage treatment plants discharging sewage to surface water or to ground and allows homeowners to forgo an environmental permit providing they meet essential requirements.
These requirements vary depending on the age of the small sewage treatment plant (pre or post 2015), but pertain to the level of daily discharge, the nature of the discharge, care not to pollute surface water or groundwater, and ensuring use of the correct type of treatment system, among other rules.
The GBRs place the liability for the septic tank squarely with the homeowner, which means purchasing a property – even unknowingly – which does not meet the required standard, could cause serious issues, and leave you open to fines and enforcement action by the Environment Agency. You can also be held liable for any environmental damage caused by a non-compliant sewage treatment system and be in breach of your mortgage or home insurance policy.
Replacing a septic tank can cost thousands of pounds.
If further adjustments are required – like needing to relocate the septic tank further away from a river/stream, or away from a building – then this could very quickly increase the cost dramatically. There might be other unforeseen expenses, such as reinstating your land after installation. Some homeowners have been forced to pay up to £40,000 in total to make their property compliant.
The GBRs state that the cost of replacing or upgrading the septic tank should be agreed as a condition of sale before you purchase. If you find yourself facing expenses which you were not expecting, then you may be able to claim compensation.
At CEL Solicitors we have a proven record of successfully representing clients who have suffered from professional negligence, having been ill-advised when purchasing a property and left footing the bill for repairs and alterations.
If your conveyancer failed to inform you of the existence and effect of the GBRs, the requirement to adhere to them, and the possibility of needing to carry out repairs, upgrades, or a replacement of a septic tank, then you can claim compensation.
Our experienced solicitors are on hand to offer the best advice possible, guiding you through the claims process, and helping correct the costly mistake made by your conveyancer.
While not essential, in order to prepare a strong case, you will be asked to provide: