Compliance Reports for Property Buyers and Sellers

You’re in the throes of moving house.

As a purchaser it’s your responsibility to find out exactly what you’re taking on. A RICS homebuyer’s report is a great start but rarely extends to whether the property’s foul and surface water drainage is fit-for-purpose and legally compliant with the Environment Agency’s General Binding Rules. With the typical price of a private drainage replacement being £15,000 (should the septic tank be found to be non-compliant) inherited liability can be a costly headache to solve.

As a vendor, you want to preemptively address any drainage issues and provide your buyers with the assurance of a well-maintained property, thereby reducing the likelihood of a failed transaction.

Which is where we come in.

We know that drainage problems delay house sales. Our comprehensive septic tank compliance surveys can identify issues early, confirm compliance and price any related works that need to be undertaken on the system.

We offer two levels of survey – the Standard Survey and the Advanced Survey.

Standard Drainage Survey

  • Drainage map showing where and what drainage a property has.
  • Compliance assessment to check whether the property’s drainage is compliant with the necessary environmental and building regulations.
  • Functionality assessment including sizing checks, defects checks and maintenance checks.
  • Full written report with recommendations and budget figures for repair or replacement.

Advanced Drainage Survey

  • Everything included in our Standard Survey; and
  • CCTV condition survey of accessible drains using latest self-levelling CCTV drainage cameras.
  • Industry-leading WinCan condition report.
  • Guidance on the relevancy of any defects found and the most appropriate method of repair. 



Inspecting the drainage as part of a Property Buyer's Compliance Report

What is different about WCI’s Compliance Reports?

There are many different things to consider when buying or selling a property. A typical RICS homebuyer’s report or building survey will look at the property as a whole but rarely investigates drainage fully.

At the other end of the scale, a CCTV condition survey only looks at the condition of the pipes without considering the legality and functionality of the drainage system as a whole.

WCI’s Property Buyer’s Compliance Report is a comprehensive survey of a property’s drainage system including the drains, septic tanks, sewage treatment plants, drainage fields, reed-beds and other drainage systems. As professional wastewater engineers, our surveys focus on providing an understanding of:

  • What drainage system a property actually has.
  • The functionality and performance of a property’s drainage.
  • The legal compliance of the property’s drainage.

What if WCI finds a problem?

When our Compliance Report identifies issues with a property’s drainage, we will include independent and objective recommendations and budget costs for bringing the property’s drainage up to standard.

We are also able to assist with completing the work required. For example:

  • Percolation testing to establish soil porosity for sizing a new drainage field for a septic tank
  • Infiltration testing to establish infiltration rates for sizing new surface water soakaways
  • Environment Agency permitting where a property’s drainage requires a permit
  • Supply and installation of septic tanks, sewage treatment plants, drainage fields and drainage
  • Rectification and repair of existing septic tanks and sewage treatment plants
Installation of a domestic septic tank

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a Home Buyer's Drainage Survey?

Most people wouldn’t think of purchasing a property without a building survey (sometimes called a RICS survey) but the survey rarely investigates the property’s drainage fully. Most homeowners with off-mains drainage systems such as septic tanks and drainage fields know very little about their septic tank and few hold records of the date of its installation, design or location. Septic tank systems can be expensive to replace and so a drainage survey makes sense to ensure you know what you are inheriting and to avoid any costly problems after the purchase. Over 60% of the properties WCI surveyed in 2019 were found to have illegal or defective foul drainage systems.

What does drainage have to do with a house purchase?

WCI receives daily calls from people purchasing a property with off-mains drainage, sometimes only days away from exchange. In most cases, the caller has been told by their solicitors that they should get an expert to inspect the property’s septic tank. The problem is that most people search Google, find a lot of conflicting information, and become confused about what a foul drainage system is, whether it complies with the necessary regulations and who to call for assistance. Purchasing a property with a septic tank need not be stressful but it can make the purchase more complicated than it needs to be!

WCI recommends that you have a drainage survey to check the functionality and compliance of any private foul drainage system before purchase.

Is it illegal to sell a house with a non-compliant septic tank?

It isn’t illegal to sell a house with a non-compliant septic tank, however, it is the homeowners’ responsibility to ensure the system meets the Environment Agency General Binding Rules. There are two options of dealing with an illegal septic tank system as part of a house sale 1. The vendor installs a new system or 2. The purchaser negotiates a reduction off the sale price and carries out the installation work after they have moved in. The benefits of option number two is that the purchaser gets the system they want (taking into account noise, aesthetics and size), in the position they want (allowing for house and garden redesign) and for the price they want.

If you are selling or purchasing a house with a septic tank and need a compliance survey, please contact the office on 01984 623404 to discuss your requirements.

How do I know the septic tank I am inheriting is legally compliant and fit for purpose?

Purchasing a house with a private foul drainage system should not be daunting. However, as with all things unknown, fear can creep in about the state of the septic tank you are inheriting. Lets face it – you will be able to see a couple of manholes and a vent pipe at best! You have heard about Environment Agency regulations but don’t know how this affects you and how do you ensure the septic tank you are inheriting is legally compliant and fit for purpose.

This is a prime example of when ‘Knowledge is Power’. The more information you can glean about the system from the Seller, the better. Better still, you could employ WCI to carry out a Drainage Survey at the property. Our drainage surveys will ensure that you will not be exposed to the daunting costs of rectifying or replacing an illegal system after you’ve completed your purchase.

To find out more about Drainage Surveys, call us on 01984 623404.

I'm buying a property with private drainage. What information does the seller legally have to provide to me?

Under the Environment Agency’s General Binding Rules, when someone sells a property with private foul drainage arrangements, they must tell the new operator (the new owner or person responsible for the sewage treatment plant) in writingthat a sewage discharge is in place. The information must include:

  • a description of the treatment plant and drainage system
  • the location of the main parts of the treatment plant, drainage system and discharge point
  • details of any changes made to the treatment plant and drainage system
  • details of how the treatment plant should be maintained, and the maintenance manual if they have one
  • maintenance records if they have them

Read our blog post outlining the buying process when it comes to a property with private drainage and what questions to ask the seller.

Read about how one home seller’s drainage survey and subsequent remedial measures led to the sale of their Somerset country house after numerous sales had previously fallen through.

Find out how a proactive home buyer sought our help pre-purchase to expose an aged and non-compliant septic tank.  This was replaced with a new cost-effective package sewage treatment plant under a bespoke Environment Agency permit.

Discover how a home sellers foul drainage survey enabled a seamless sale for the owners of a Somerset country house after the repair of an illegally discharging septic tank and reinstatement of a new drainage field.