Individual Drainage Systems

Since 1 January 2011 new rules apply to the sale of all properties which are not connected to mains drainage.

Buyers and sellers should be aware that a drainage report is now compulsory on the sale of any residential property not connected to mains drainage. This survey report (known as the "Diagnostic ANC" which stands for assainissement non collectif) relates to the condition of the individual drainage system (i.e. septic tank). This report is the eighth compulsory report which must be produced and paid for by the seller.

The new law applies to all residential sales whether the whole or just part of a property is being sold.

The report must be no more than three years old at the date of completion of the sale (i.e. the date of signature of the final sale and purchase deed in the notary's office).

If the seller does not have a valid drainage report, he must arrange to have a survey carried out and must provide the resulting report to either the agent or the notary so it can be annexed to the preliminary sale contract (the compromis de vente). As with the lead, asbestos, termite, gas and electricity surveys, in the absence of a valid drainage report the seller will remain liable for any hidden defects that may come to light after completion.

The purpose of the drainage survey is twofold: To ascertain whether the individual drainage system conforms to current standards and to establish if it poses any risk to public health or to the environment. The report must be produced by the Commune, usually via the local drainage authority known as the "SPANC" (Service Public d'Assainissement Non Collectif), but in some cases another competent body authorised by the Commune can carry out the inspection.

Since it seems that arrangements have not yet been made for the certification of organisations other than the SPANC (and limited other public bodies) to carry out these drainage surveys, obtaining a survey report may take longer than expected (and certainly longer than the few days usually required to obtain the other compulsory reports). Consequently it is advisable that sellers arrange their surveys as early as possible so as not to delay the progress of the sale.

Sellers may also have to be prepared to renegotiate the sale price if the report reveals that the septic tank is obsolete or defective as the buyers will be required to carry out the replacement or upgrading of the tank within twelve months of completion of the purchase.

Alternatively, where it is revealed that an individual drainage system does not conform to current standards, the parties may agree to add a condition to the preliminary contract whereby the seller agrees to carry out the necessary work prior to completion.

This article first appeared on the French Entrée Website in January 2011

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