Septic Tank solicitor negligence

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Regulations in force since January 2015 have banned the way septic tanks discharge waste and required homeowners to make their old systems compliant with the new rules.

 Many homeowners have been left out of pocket due to their professional advisers not being aware of these rules and the new requirements.

 If you have suffered a loss because of an issue with a septic tank, we can help. We are solicitors who specialise in professional negligence claims against conveyancing solicitors. If your case meets our criteria we may be able to offer you a “No-Win, No-Fee” agreement in order to pursue your claim.


In rural areas, septic tanks can be very common as property is not always connected to a mains sewer. Homeowners find septic tanks a relatively easy solution to the problem of dealing with waste water and sewage.

Historically, these types of small septic tanks discharged directly into a local watercourse, such as a river or stream.

However, the Government is keen to reduce the level of pollution from this source and has introduced new laws designed to control it.

Since 2015, homeowners have not been allowed to discharge from a septic tank into a watercourse, or to any other type of soakaway system, other than a drainage field. The reason for this is because such waste water is no longer considered clean enough to flow straight into local watercourses, or soakaway systems, without causing pollution.

The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2014 (the “Regulations”) came into force on 1 January 2015 and created General Binding Rules for septic tanks. Under the Regulations, anyone with a septic tank that discharged into a watercourse was required to have replaced or upgraded it by 1 January 2020, in order to make it compliant.

Systems can be made compliant by:

  • Connecting to a public foul sewer; or
  • Replacing the septic tank with a small sewage treatment plant; or
  • Installing a drainage field (also known as an infiltration system) – a series of pipes with holes placed in trenches and arranged so that the waste water can trickle through the ground for further treatment; or
  • In exceptional circumstances only, applying for a permit to allow discharge to surface water.

Although the laudable aims of the Regulations have been publicised and promoted by the Government, it appears that many solicitors and conveyancers were simply not aware of the new requirements.

For example, it is very important to know exactly what type of drainage system exists at a property, and what condition it is in, prior to completing a property purchase. The guidance on the General Binding Rules on the website states:

“If you buy or sell a property with a septic tank that discharges directly into a watercourse you should agree with the buyer or seller who will be responsible for replacing or upgrading the treatment system. You should agree this as a condition of sale.”

If the above guidance is not followed, it can create problems for buyers. Solicitors and conveyancers that have not advised properly on these issues may be liable for the substantial costs incurred as a result. We are acting for numerous individuals in order to help them recover these types of losses.


“Mr and Mrs M purchased their new home in September 2020. The vendors advised our clients’ previous solicitors that their property was not connected to the mains foul water system, however, the solicitors failed to properly follow this up and advised Mr and Mrs M that everything in the water and drainage search looked acceptable and that household waste drained into the mains sewer system. When they tried to move into the property, Mr and Mrs M discovered that, in fact, a septic tank was installed. As a result, Mr and Mrs M and their children have been unable to move into the property full-time, as the septic tank is not suitable for a family of four. It is estimated that the required upgrades will cost in excess of £20,000 and we are seeking the full cost from Mr and Mrs M’s previous solicitors.”


“Mr and Mrs C purchased their dream home in August 2019. Their conveyancing solicitors unfortunately failed to report to them upon the Regulations in place since January 2015 which required them to upgrade their shared septic tank drainage to a sewage treatment plant by 1 January 2020. We are seeking to recover the anticipated upgrading costs of £25,000.”

“Mr and Mrs J purchased a new build home in 2017. They were incorrectly advised that it had a shared private foul drainage system with a pumping station and a private road which the developer would finish. After completion, the developer went into liquidation and a planning enforcement notice was served on Mr and Mrs J. They now face paying a significant bill to fix the foul drainage system and make it compliant.  As a result of this their property is almost valueless. The solicitors failed to note and report that the entire foul drainage system had been constructed in breach of planning conditions. It was supposed to be adopted by the local water authority and there should have been an Agreement and Bond in place to ensure this. They also failed to protect Mr and Mrs J’s interests in relation to the road which has never been finished. As a consequence, we are seeking their full losses from Mr and Mrs J’s former solicitors.”

If you have a similar problem, we may also be able to assist you. Contact us now to discuss your potential claim and to find out whether we can assist you. Please call us on 0800 152 2620 for further advice, or fill in the form below and one of our Solicitors will call you back at a convenient time.


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