Septic tank changes for property sales in France

SINCE the turn of the year a report on the condition of a property’s septic tank, if it has one, has been necessary before a house sale.

Here Keith Lacey, owner of a waste water and sewage treatment business based in the Mayenne, takes a look at this new addition to the Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT).

Keith has provided an English language translation of the legislation titled Grenelle II, of 12 juillet 2010.

The Sanitation Diagnostic

For the sake of the ecological preservation of the environment and its water resources, the law in France requires every seller prove the proper functioning of personal sanitation.

To meet this obligation, since 1 January 2011, they must deliver to the buyer, a new diagnosis on their sanitation. According to accurate statistics, France has about five million units of individual sewage systems (80% are defective and/or poorly maintained) and nearly 600,000 units discharge their wastewater directly into the wild.

This situation is causing pollution of soil, rivers and water tables.

With this in mind, and while it was, until recently, largely neglected by the law, sanitation is, henceforth, at the heart of environmental concerns here in France.

To improve the situation, the law on water, 30th December 2006, supplemented by the law known as Grenelle II of 12 July 2010, has now created a new sanitation diagnosis.

It concerns the control of sewerage facilities or autonomous: septic tanks, grease traps, trenches or disposal beds, etc. (also called consolidation individual).

The purpose of diagnosis of the sanitation is twofold:

– To protect, like all other diagnoses, the parties to a sale: the buyer is then better informed about the condition of the property and the seller avoids any calls on their contractual responsibilities

– And to gradually improve the condition of the facilities as it is now an obligation for any upgrading or improvement work to be carried out.

Which properties in France are covered?

All residential properties (mainly detached properties) not connected to the public sewage (collective) and all dwellings having no drains.

What does the report contain?

A sanitation diagnostic is an audit of the operation and maintenance of an individual sewage installation.

Accurate diagnostic work has to be made to eliminate the health hazards to people and the proven risk of pollution to the environment.

Performing a diagnostic test

In practice, the diagnosis is a consolidation based on documents provided by any owner of the building, and during a site visit it is to:

– Identify, locate and characterise devices constituting an installation
– Locate any accessibility and maintenance defects along with any wear
– Verify compliance with all necessary technical requirements laid down by statute in the completion of the installation or its rehabilitation/renovation.
– If all OK, then it notes that the functioning of the installation does not create environmental hazards, health hazards or nuisances.
– For any installations realised or rehabilitated since 1 January 1999, to check their adaptation.

The contents of the diagnostic report

Following the control, the commune records the inspection report with any observations made during that control, it assesses any health/pollution risk to the environment presented by an existing installation.

Inspection report observations, if necessary are notified with:
– Recommendations, to the address and owner, on accessibility, maintenance or the need to make changes.
– Any health and environmental risks duly recorded the list and importance level of work, if any, in order of priority and limitation of completion date (if any).

The inspection report for the sanitation diagnosis will, and should be, annexed to any compromis and act de vente.

Valid duration of the report

The document given to the purchaser and annexed to the sale agreement must be less than three years from the final day of the deed of sale (the act in notarial).

How to get the diagnosis?

Communes, through SPANC, must ensure the inspection control of all sewage facilities by 31 December 2012.

The mission of the control is to verify that the installation of sewage systems do not interfere with public health, people’s safety, preservation of the quality of surface water and groundwater, and identify any possible environmental health related risks/problems to the design, execution, operation or state of installation (including maintenance).

At completion of the inspection, the owner receives from the Mairie, a visit report. This report will, if the property is sold, be attached to the compromis and acte de vente.

It is not the diagnostician who decides all the technical aspects which establish the sanitation diagnostic, to date the Mairie is your only contact.

Cost of the report?

The cost of the sanitation diagnostic (known as “royalty”), is always paid by the seller/owner and varies among municipalities; it is often between €50 and €150.

It is the obligation of the buyer to check the compliance of any works.

Unlike other diagnoses that are purely informative and imply no obligation to work, the sanitation diagnosis can be binding.

Indeed, any non conformity of a sewage installation discovered at the signing of a sale, the purchaser will need to proceed with the work of compliance within a period of one year after the signing of that deed of sale.

Given the possible cost of any work, and to limit delays, it is advisable for buyers to look very carefully at the diagnostic report and take that into account when negotiating the sale price of a property.

Related article:
Waste water and sewage treatment in France

Categorised as Property

By Craig McGinty

Thank you for reading This French Life, join me in living life the French way.