House sellers will be required to have a survey of their septic tank undertaken from 2011.
The survey requirement was originally planned be be introduced in 2013.
However, the ‘loi Grenelle II’ of 12 July 2010 brings the date forward to 1st January 2011.
This means that, with effect from this date, if the property has a septic tank installed, the sale contract will need to include a diagnostic d'assainissement non collectif.
The report will form part of the Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT) of survey reports that has to be prepared by all sellers as part of the sale.
This dossier provides information on asbestos, lead, electrics, risks, termites, energy efficiency, and gas, where relevant a particular property.
The preparation of this French style 'home information pack' already costs anything from €300 to €750, depending on the number of reports required.
The new law provides that, in the absence of a septic tank survey being carried out, the seller will not be exempt from liability to latent defects that may later arise with the operation of the septic tank. They may also be liable for damages.
If the system is later shown not to comply with regulations, then the new owner will be obliged to bring it up to standard.
Local Council Surveys
Local councils are already in the process of undertaking a survey of domestic septic tanks, which they are required to complete by 31st December 2012.
These inspections are being organised by the local Service public de l'assainissement non collectif (Spanc), who are committees appointed by the local councils to regulate the operation and installation of septic tanks.
Many thousands of households have already been visited by inspectors appointed by their Spanc, who generally impose a charge for the inspection.
In a recent survey, the consumer magazine Le Particulier found large variations in the level of the charge for this inspection. The average charge was €83.40, although it varied from being free, to as much as €184.
The Spanc's are now required to carry out these inspections every eight years, for which there will normally be a charge.
All of these inspections are destined to ensure that the 5 million households who have a septic tank installed on their property bring them up to a compliance standard.
Local councils have argued that many households will be unable to afford to do so. The cost of installing a new septic tank can range between €5000 and €10,000.
Although it is possible to obtain a tax free loan (Ecoprêt à taux zero - éco PTZ) for the works, the loan is only available if other works of energy conservation are undertaken.
A few councils have also decided to offer assistance on a means tested basis, and these same households may also be eligible for a grant towards the works from the French home improvement agency l’Agence nationale pour l’amélioration de l’habitat (ANAH).
Planning controls on the installation of septic tanks are also being introduced. At the moment the installation of a septic tank does not require planning consent, but this will soon change.