Septic tanks in the home diagram

On the sale of a residential property which is not connected to mains drainage, a drainage report must be arranged, produced and paid for by the seller.

In most Communes it is a body called the SPANC Service Public d’Assainissement Non Collectif which is in charge of the drainage for properties not linked to the mains network and it is the SPANC which must inspect the property being sold and issue a report. In some cases however, another competent body authorised by the Commune will be instructed to produce the report.

The report must be no more than three years old at the date of legal completion of the sale and a copy of it must be provided to the buyer before signature of the initial contract compromis de vente.

The purpose of the drainage survey is twofold. Firstly, to establish and inform the buyer as to whether the individual drainage system conforms to current regulations and secondly to check whether or not the system poses any risk to public health or to the environment.

A drainage system which includes a septic tank which is more than 15 years old is unlikely to comply with current regulations. The report will either state that the system is acceptable (acceptable OR conforme), acceptable with conditions / reservations (acceptable sous reserves) or it will state that it is obsolete and needs replacing (non conforme).

In such a situation, unless the system is fully compliant with the current regulations, the decision as to who will arrange and pay for the upgrading or replacement of the system will depend on whether the condition of the septic tank was known and communicated to the buyer before he / she made the offer to buy the property for a certain price.

If the sale price was agreed before the condition of the septic tank was known, responsibility for putting it right will need to be negotiated between the parties.

The seller might refuse to renegotiate in which case the buyer will either have to walk away from the purchase or accept that he will have to remedy the defective system at his own cost without any reduction in the purchase price.

Sometimes however the parties might agree to add a condition to the initial contract whereby the seller agrees to carry out the necessary work at his own expense prior to completion.

Alternatively the seller might agree to lower the sale price in return for the buyer taking responsibility for the remedial works.

In any event, unless the remedial work is dealt with before completion of the sale, the buyer as new owner will be required by law to rectify the defects (whether by upgrading the system or replacing it entirely) within twelve months of completion of the purchase.

At least two quotations should be obtained from local companies specialising in drainage works so that whichever party is to pay for the work knows the likely cost. The SPANC is just the body responsible for the inspection and monitoring of drainage systems – it will not carry out the necessary works for you.

•With thanks to Barbara Heslop
For more information, contact Heslop & Platt, Solicitors and French Law Specialists on +44 (0)113 393 1930 or see www.heslop-platt.co.uk

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal, or other professional advice. We would advise you to seek professional advice before acting on this information.

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