For all your legal challenges...

We're here to help

News and Events

2020 Septic Tank Regulations - what you need to know

  • Posted


Septic tank changes. Not the most appealing opening line but for many home owners, something they are going to need to brush up on.

Many homes across England and Wales are not connected to the main sewers and have septic tanks in place to get rid of their waste and, not unreasonably, the Environment Agency, have decided that an update to the current regulations are required. The main focus of the changes are to make sure that the contents of those septic tanks are not ending up our streams and rivers as is so often the case at the moment.

Some of their advice coming out is advice and/or best practice, however some of it will become law, and to avoid ending up in the metaphorical contents of your septic tank, many home owners would be well served to spend some time doing some research.

Previously, separated water from a septic tank could be discharged in two different ways:

  1. Into a drainage field or soak away
  2. Into a waterway

However, in 2015, the “General Binding Rules: small sewage discharge to surface water” were brought out in order to regulate this and stop the discharge into waterways. This is because the quality of the separated water is no longer considered to be clean enough to be discharged into streams and rivers. The consequence of this is that if your septic tank is discharging in this manner, you will need to have updated it or replace it by 1 January 2020 so that it complies.

You will also no longer be able to discharge into a soak away.

There are two real options for change; the first being to replace your tank with a sewage treatment tank and the second being the installation of a drainage field.

Your tank is also going to have to meet the British Standard which was in place at the time of installation. To prove this you will need to provide either the documentation demonstrating this, have a CE marking on the tank, or find your tank on the British Water list of approved equipment. If your tank was installed before 1983, however, then you are exempt as the British Standard did not exist.

Finally, when you come to sell your property you will have to tell the new owner, in writing, that they are responsible for the septic tank. You will also have to provide 7 years of records for the maintenance of the tank (including records of it being emptied every 12 months), the location of the drainage field and the septic tank, details of any changes made to the tank or the drainage field from the original design and details of the maintenance requirements for the tank.

If homeowners fail to comply then they risk a penalty of an unlimited fine. To help you ensure this doesn’t happen we continue to provide comprehensive reports on title to purchasers and appropriate advice to vendors.

If you require any further advice in respect of the changes in the law on this issue then please do not hesitate to contact Ashlea Thornton who will be happy to advise you.