2020 Important Residential Property Changes!

Not your normal update or post from me, however, a couple of things worth being aware of within the residential property world!

The first is that National Trading Standards has announced that from next year (2020), landlords and sellers will have to reveal where there are high levels of air pollution in their districts.  The information will have to be made clear to buyers and tenants.  Many may think this will only affect areas such as London (where Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster have the highest levels of pollution) but there are many areas across the country which are likely to be affected.  Pollution mapping is now more widely available, with a postcode search facility, so it is something people consider to be material information.  As already acknowledged, in the press, this could work both ways – a low rating could be a good marketing tool, but a high rating may make purchasers or potential occupiers consider their options.

The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) is to include air pollution within its property information questionnaire.  Under law the form already asks sellers to disclose known issues such as asbestos or Japanese Knotweed.  Owners do have a legal duty to provide the right details and not withhold anything, however, agents are also under a legal duty to be aware of all the facts and to check them.  Just another point that agents and those in the property market should consider.

The second point is the 2015 legislation which came into force setting out binding rules relating to septic tanks.  The legislation prohibits discharging directly from a septic tank into any water source.  A grace period was granted, of five years, but the sanctions become live on 1 January 2020.  Despite this, so many property owners and prospective purchasers are still not aware of the legislation.  If you have a septic tank which discharges directly into surface water you need to replace, or upgrade, the system by 1 January 2020 which leaves a potential issue some properties with less than a month to go.  If the Environment Agency finds evidence that your septic tank is discharging into surface water and causing pollution they could take action (anything from a warning or enforcement notice to requiring remediation works to be carried out or even prosecutions).  Permits to discharge to a surface water are only granted in exceptional circumstances.

Compliance with the rules could be achieved through connection to the mains sewer (though not always an option for more rural properties), installation of a drainage field/infiltration system (which is a complication option and it would be advisable for the Environment Agency to assess the risk of such a system first as mistakes can be costly) or replacement of the septic tank with a sewerage treatment.  The latter produces a cleaner form of water and it is considered clean enough to discharge straight into a watercourse.  All systems should meet the relevant British Standard.

The issues with septic tanks is one which rural properties in particular should be aware of – it is likely that some people will not have had this matter brought to their attention unless they are buying or selling and agents/solicitors have raised the legislation.  If you are reading this and are aware of someone this may affect, do share it – you could keep them out of trouble!  As always, take appropriate advice from the straight – it is often more expensive to do things twice!