26 May 2011 by

Going down the drain?

The majority of properties are connected to public sewers. The general maintenance and repair of these will be looked after by the local water authority except for any private connections running from the public sewer to your property which will be your (and possibly your neighbour’s) responsibility to maintain.

When you buy a property your conveyancer will carry out a drainage and water search on your behalf. The search result will contain a map showing the location of the connections to both mains water and drainage. It will also confirm whether the property has a water meter and if it has met recent water quality standards. Knowing the location of pipes can be very helpful especially if you are planning on extending your property as you may need to seek the permission of the local water authority before you build over any existing connections.

With the environment increasingly at the forefront of people’s minds, it is unsurprising that new home builders are taking note and introducing environmentally friendly measures into their designs. Solar panels, energy efficient windows and boilers are all becoming much more common.

Drainage is now also being brought into the twenty-first century with systems such as gravity drains, reed beds and modern private treatment plants on the increase. Private drainage systems are not new, indeed, many homes are not connected to a public sewer because they are located in the countryside or in other places that are too far away from the public system.  They use small, private sewage treatment systems, septic tanks or, in exceptional circumstances, cesspools to deal with their domestic sewage. If correctly located, designed and installed these systems protect the environment from sewage pollution, but they must be properly maintained!

The Environment Agency (‘EA’) regulates these private systems and as from the 1 January 2012 the new Environment Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 come into effect requiring householders with such systems to register with the EA.

The majority of homes with these systems will be able to apply to register free online if their system meets the following criteria:

  • the tank or small sewage treatment plant is not near to a protected or designated area for the natural environment;
  • it is used to treat sewage from 11 people (2 cubic metres) per day or less and the discharge goes into the ground; or
  • it is used to treat sewage from 27 people (5 cubic metres) per day or less and the discharge goes into a river or stream.

If your system does not meet these standards or your application fails then you will have to submit a full registration to the EA which will make a one off charge for carrying out a risk assessment of the discharge.

If you do not register your system then your waste will be classed as pollution and you could face a fine of up to £20,000.00.

The new rules are of particular importance if you are selling or buying a property with a septic tank. The new regime means that when you sell the property it is not necessary to notify the EA of the change of ownership provided the septic tank is operated and maintained properly. You must, however, give written confirmation of the registration and any conditions that must be met to the new owner along with any maintenance records.

11 May 2011 by

Charitable Giving and your Will

Legacies are enormously important to charities. It is estimated that almost £2billion is left to charities in Wills every year, and one of the oft-cited reasons for making a Will is that you can include charities rather than your immediate family members, who would inherit under the intestacy laws.

20 May 2011 by

The Rights of Unmarried Couples, a cautionary tale to be continued

Last year the number of marriages in England and Wales was the lowest since 1895, with just 232,900 couples deciding to bite the bullet and get hitched. Instead of getting married, many couples are just living together or 'cohabiting'.

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