Old septic tanks are stalling country purchases and knocking thousands of pounds off sale prices in the wake of new regulations.
Rural homeowners are largely unaware of recent rule changes, which require private drainage systems to be upgraded before they sell up, agents have warned. A non-compliant septic tank can delay a sale by months and land sellers with costly bills.
Jack Rees, of Southampton estate agency Fine & Country, said: “Lots of homeowners will have no idea of the new rules.
“The biggest change is that tanks must now be suitable for the number of people that could live in the house, so more to do with bedroom count, rather than the number actually living in the property.”
One homeowner who recently listed their £1.7m seven-bedroom house in Hampshire was stung by an £11,000 invoice to upgrade their tank before they could sell. It delayed the process by six weeks.
Mr Rees added: “It’s not just the cost, but the time it will take to get the works done. Supply chain issues and huge demand for contractors mean homeowners can be waiting for months.”
Homeowners were required to upgrade their tank by early 2020, under rules introduced in 2015, to reduce sewage pollution in the country’s watercourses.
Rupert Sweeting, of Knight Frank estate agency, said upgrading to a new tank could cost anywhere between £5,000 and £25,000 depending on the size of the grounds.
This can either be paid by the seller upfront or knocked off the sale price in negotiations.
One buyer in the process of purchasing a home in the South West with a non-compliant tank has shouldered some of the risk herself to get the sale across the line.
She said: “The sellers were completely unaware of the change of legislation and we only flagged it after our offer was accepted because a friend had experienced the same issue. It’s delayed the process by about six weeks, which included getting lender approval.”
In a bid to complete the sale, £29,000 has been placed in retention with a solicitor for the buyer to use to carry out the works after the property changes hands.