Building Control about to sign off illegal work?

Discussion in 'Builders' Talk' started by HELP!, Sep 19, 2021.

  1. HELP!

    HELP! New Member

    Can anyone help me?
    My neighbour is working on the drainage field for our shared houses. She has arranged for a single pipe to replace the old pipe which took the discharge from our septic tank to the side of the field where it flows down the field in a ditch.
    Building Control has said it breaches the general binding rules (whatever they are!) but they will sign it off anyway because it's not a worse system than was in previously.
    Is this OK? Is it alright to sign something off that is not complying with all the regulations? I want it to be done properly but it's not my field.
  2. jonathanc

    jonathanc Screwfix Select

    General binding rules are set by the environment agency. There are no provisions to not comply with them just because the works are better than what was there.

    I would suggest you report the matter to the environment agency. I would also contact whoever owns the land the ditch is on as they will want to ensure that any discharge to their land meets current requirements even though the existing set up didn’t

    I would also add that as this is a shared tank then both you and your neighbour are classed as an operator of the system under the general binding rules and absent of anything to the contrary such as a legal agreement, you are both liable for prosecution from the environment agency for non compliance with the rules
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2021
  3. HELP!

    HELP! New Member

    Thank you. My deeds state that my neighbour, as the landowner, is responsible for compliance with the regulations. Does that stillmean that I will be jointly responsible for the failure to comply?
  4. jonathanc

    jonathanc Screwfix Select

    don’t think so. I think that puts the responsibly on the neighbour
  5. Severntrent

    Severntrent Screwfix Select

    Of course reporting things to the EA could involve them looking into your sewage treatment process in detail and then deciding that you need to update to a more modern process which may have financial costs on yourself, suggest you let sleeping dogs lie
  6. HELP!

    HELP! New Member

    Thanks Jonathan. Good to know. I've just re read you earlier comment - can you explain this to me a bit more, please? "There are no provisions to not comply with them just because the works are better than what was there." Does this mean Building Control shouldn't sign off the works?

    Severn Trent....that's a good point for anyone who is not wishing to do the right thing. Our aim is to follow all the rules. It's just hard to know what they are.
  7. quasar9

    quasar9 Screwfix Select

    All good stuff from Jonathan and Severn. But the underlying legal question is,

    is this work repairing and making good an existing system or essentially replacing an existing system. If the former then the system does not have to comply with latest standards as laws are very rarely applied retrospectively.

    if this was the case, nearly every house in UK would fail to comply with the latest electrical regulation. Bulk of the cars are not Euro 6 yet allowed to be used in general unless explicitly forbidden. There are thousands of non condensing boilers that do not meet the A or A+ rating.

    in these example, replacing some socket or even laying a new circuit does not require replacement of the entire system to the latest standards . You continue to use your old car and boiler till it’s time to replace them, when the new article needs to comply with new standards. Even here, for example with cars, a secondhand car only complies with standards applicable at the time when the first production car rolled off.

    I suspect that your BC has determined that your neighbours works fall under repair and maintenance and hence happy to sign off, although it may not comply with latest directive form EA.

    Suggest you take legal advice before going to EA.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2021
    ElecCEng likes this.
  8. jonathanc

    jonathanc Screwfix Select

    The general binding rules are retrospective. They are an environmental matter and not one falling under building control.

    they are retrospective to a point. If this is a new discharge then higher standards apply than they do for an existing discharge. Specifically discharges to ditches can continue but new ones are not permitted. Discharge to water course / which means flowing water that does not dry up. Is permitted.
  9. HELP!

    HELP! New Member

    The water discharges to a ditch but there is no water flow in it, except from the discharge.
    My understanding is that from 2020, discharge to the surface is illegal for septic tanks and sewage treatment plants (unless it's to a watercourse for a sewage treatment plant (which this isn't).
    The system is entirely new, but has been directed to the original destination so it's technically being presented as an existing system. The only difference is the pipes are smaller and some of them have been perforated.
    Part of the reason I'm so concerned is that they want me to take legal responsibility for it.
  10. jonathanc

    jonathanc Screwfix Select

    If you believe it does not comply then no not take responsibility for it. Simple. What’s in it for you to take any responsibility for it?
  11. adgjl

    adgjl Member

    I believe that if discovered, the Environment Agency would require it to be brought up to modern standards regardless. For a new system, a new “certificate of discharge” would be needed, which you would be unlikely to get.
  12. quasar9

    quasar9 Screwfix Select

    1. Who is asking you to take legal responsibility?
    2. In the original post, it implies a modification to existing system downstream of the two septic tanks, to have a combined outlet. But later you mention “ the system is entirely new ….” ? And later still you say “The only difference is the pipes are smaller and some of them have been perforated…” . They contradict
    3. Who is technically presenting it as a existing system, your neighbour?
    4. What is your real concern, doing the right thing for the environment or fear of prosecution from EA for non compliance ?
    5. Why has your neighbour not asked to split the bill or at least make a contribution if the system is shared? Are they freeholders with you as a leaseholder ?

    apologies if I sound harsh, but these are the type of questions that will be asked if you seek professional advice

    I would repeat my original advice to seek legal help, because as you said, because the system is shared under law you become equally liable.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2021
    ElecCEng likes this.
  13. HELP!

    HELP! New Member

    1. The field owner
    2. The existing system was a pipe into the ditch. But she told us there was a fully compliant drainage field and the deeds state that too. She then cut me off from the pipe/drainage field and installed a new pipe which goes the other way around the field. But the discharge is at the same point in the ditch so technically its considered to be an existing system. I know its crazy, but its the system which dictates that, not me! The system is now separate from hers, with smaller pipes than it used to have.
    3. The field owner is presenting it as an existing system.
    4. Both.
    5. She has asked me to split the bill, but the system she installed was initially a short length of pipe and she accused me of polluting her field in the same email she wanted me to take responsibility for the field. She only extended the pipe to the original discharge point after building control told her she had to fix it. But they are now going to sign it off, despite knowing its not meeting the right standards.

    The system is no longer shared, as she split it. It's confusing I know. But my deeds still say she is responsible for the drainage and that she had a proper drainage field in it. She has denied me the right to enter to the field too. To eb honest, I think she's going a bit senile, but that doesn't really help me.
  14. HELP!

    HELP! New Member

    Thanks Jonathan. I think that's really sensible. I just refuse to take responsibility fro the system until it is done right.
  15. HELP!

    HELP! New Member

    HI, what is a certificate of discharge, please? I haven't heard about that.
  16. ElecCEng

    ElecCEng Screwfix Select

    In that case you need to either:

    a) Install a drainage field on your property. Assuming there is scope to do so.


    b) Install a sewage treatment plant (Klargester or similar).

    Sounds like your neighbour’s property might be up for sale soon… Perhaps better that you look at an option that separates you from the problem.

    If not go with the suggestion above to get legal advice. Maybe have a statement drawn up stating that you did not initiate any work on the system and take no financial or legal responsibility for it if it doesn’t meet current requirements.
  17. stevie22

    stevie22 Screwfix Select

    This sounds lie a bit of a mess.

    It seems to me that your neighbour is responsible for the system which provides your drainage. I don't see that she can do anything to alter that arrangement without your formal consent. Maybe it's your solicitor you should be speaking to.

    I don't think you should second guess BC: if they're happy to accept the works then I would suggest it's not for you as a layman to question them.

    I wouldn't alert EA: no good will come of it.
  18. jonathanc

    jonathanc Screwfix Select

    What do your deeds say precisely about the discharge to the field and your rights to discharge? Also please look at your neighbours deeds as they should specify that you have a right to discharge there and right to maintain the discharge. Download your neighbours title deed from the land registry.

    this sounds like there are various try ons going on so get your facts together first. Post up the extracts from the deeds here if you want. After all they are public documents
  19. quasar9

    quasar9 Screwfix Select

    I assume the field owner and next door are the same, if not you have two parties to deal with. She seems the litigious sort. I would start by talking to a lawyer that specialises in property and show him/her the deeds and discuss all her (neighbour/field owner) actions including your right to enter the field. BC is likely to sign off any way as they were effectively be hired by her and not answerable to you directly.

    only after you take legal advice who should advice you of costs and actions of alerting EA. otherwise you could leave yourself to open ended costs, not least from litigation from your neighbour but also through works recommended by EA, which is enforceable.
  20. jonathanc

    jonathanc Screwfix Select

    probsbly worth getting copies of deeds yourself and reading them before appointing a lawyer. After all the first thing a lawyer will do is download the deeds abs explain them to you: something you can work out yourself! Anyway. Post an extract here and we may be able to help

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