Thinking of Buying a House with a Septic Tank?

When considering the purchase of a house with a septic tank, it is wise to read up on just what it will mean for you. There is no need to be afraid, but rather a necessity to be well informed so that you don’t accidentally breach the rules and regulations. The rules are in place to safeguard our watercourses and environment and try to ensure the health of our rivers and the ecosystems therein. In addition to the environmentally guided rules, there are some key pieces of advice you should follow to avoid costly repairs and downtime, not to mention having to put up with a nasty smell should things go wrong!

A property with an off mains sewage system could have a cesspool, septic tank or treatment plant. Let’s outline the key distinctions.


Cesspools are underground tanks that collect and store sewage from your property. No processing takes place and nothing is released. Instead they need emptying roughly every 90 days, which will prove more costly than other options in the long run.

Septic Tanks

One level up from a cesspool, the septic tank processes the waste, producing effluent that is digested by bacteria in a natural process. The solids will settle at the bottom of the tank and the treated effluent is pumped into a soakaway. The tougher guidelines make septic tanks trickier to install and a treatment plant is the preferred option.

Treatment Plants

The ideal option is a treatment plant, but of course, when buying a property with an existing system you may not have the choice. A treatment plant provides an ultra-efficient way of removing waste for properties not connected to mains drainage. These plants break down waste before pumping out effluent that is around 95% clean into the ditch or watercourse.

When looking at the septic tank in your potential property, you should make sure that it complies with the regulations, which recently changed – becoming more stringent. If you need advice you should contact an expert for an opinion. If changes must be made then you should discuss this with the owners as, so long as the property is still theirs it remains their responsibility and you should not have to bear the cost.

With sewage treatment plants it is important to check for regular maintenance records (more on this later), including service records and de-sludging. It is also worth investigating whether there are any warranties that remain valid.


If you are thinking of purchasing a property with any of these off-mains drainage sewage treatment options, the best thing you can do is get a contract with an expert company to ensure your equipment is kept well maintained and serviced, minimizing the risk of breakdowns and inconvenient downtime. Like all equipment treatment plants and septic tanks need to be kept in tip-top condition to be able to keep doing their job at the best of their ability. It will be far costlier in the long run to let your machinery go un-serviced.