Actually, they are not new; they came into effect in 2015 but will be law in January 2020.

Upgrading your drainage system / tanks can be costly and failure to react could cost even more when buyers lower their offers or walk away from a purchase.

Any rural property or property with private drains will be aware of the joys of septic tanks, cess pits and sewage treatment tanks – because discovering that they are not correctly sited, not properly maintained or have leakage issues can be a deal killer when it comes to selling your property.

Many systems are not properly maintained, others are old, rural and rusting and not fit for purpose!

Now, says the law, it’s time they were efficient and not polluting our water ways.

The General Binding Rules for small sewage discharges (SSDs) have been put in place to protect England’s surface water resources (e.g. rivers, streams etc.) from pollution caused by septic tanks and other small-scale sewage treatment plants.


Under the new regulations, it is no longer permissible to discharge low quality effluent from septic tanks directly into ditches, streams or other watercourses.

Homeowners have to adhere to the new regulations by either replacing or upgrading their systems if it currently discharges into a water course without treatment.

The changing legislation cannot be ignored – the responsibility lies with owners to understand their private drainage system and any changes they need to make to comply.

Ask yourself:

Do you know the difference between a septic tank, cess pit and sewage treatment plant?

If you own a septic tank, do you know where it discharges?


Septic tanks are very common in rural properties and most homeowners find them a relatively easy solution to the problem of dealing with wastewater and sewage where no mains drainage is available.

What happens if I am selling my home?

If you’re selling your property the ‘General Binding Rules’ stipulate that you must replace your septic system with a compliant system prior to selling your home. It is also the seller’s duty to inform potential buyers in writing if a property has a septic tank – including its maintenance requirements and its exact location.

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