In 2015, a law was put in place with the aim of ridding England and Wales of old septic tanks which potentially pollute rivers and streams. The rules (known as the General Binding Rules or GBR) require that anyone with a septic tank discharging into a watercourse must replace it or upgrade it by 1 January 2020, or sooner if the property is sold before this date.
All owners of homes served by a septic tank must have it checked to ascertain whether it does require replacing/upgrading, whether selling or not, although it really is a priority if delays in the sale are to be avoided.
Anyone buying a home with a septic tank, should also seek clarity and assurances as the responsibility to replace the tank with a sewage treatment plant will pass to a buyer, if not addressed during the purchase.
The problem seems to be reaching a state of alarm, despite being heralded many years prior to 2015, when legislation was implemented. The lack of any communication to the public is partly to blame, but there is also the issue that the Environment Agency (who are tasked with “policing” this matter) may lack accurate records of the number and/or location of septic tanks, and will find it difficult to resource or implement protocols to identify those in breach.