Septic Tanks

Is your property served by a Septic Tank?

The Environment Agency has made changes to the General Binding Rules which will take effect from 1 January 2020. These affect both new and existing septic tanks.

Septic tanks work by settling the solids within a chamber and then discharging the liquid septic effluent into the ground by a specially designed drainfield.

The General Binding Rules will no longer allow septic tanks to discharge effluent into watercourse from 1 January 2020. If there is an existing septic tank which does discharge into a watercourse the owner must either:

  1. Upgrade the septic tank treatment to a full sewage treatment plant or
  2. The discharge to the watercourse stopped and a connection from the septic tank to a drainfield connected

Drainfields consist of a number of rigid perforated pipes in a trench covered in drainage stone. The pipe allows the effluent to filter through the pipe and seep into the ground to be broken down further by soil bacteria. This is not to be confused with a soakaway pit or crates, which are not allowed.

Soakaways are primarily designed for draining rainwater thus not appropriate. Should a current system be used for draining septic tank effluent an application to the Environment Agency should be made or the system upgraded in line with the new legislation.

Septic tanks must meet the relevant British standard in force when it was installed. However, if a tank was installed prior to 1983 it does not have to meet the British Standard as they were not in place.

From 1983 they need to meet the relevant standard as detailed below:

  • – CE Marked
  • – Certification of compliance with British Standard
  • – The tank is detailed on the British Water’s list of approved equipment for BS EN 12566-1

Further regulations are applicable if your septic tank is located within 50 metres of:

  • – Special conservation areas
  • – Special protection areas
  • – Ramsar sites
  • – Biological sites of special scientific interest

Ensuring new septic tanks are of the correct size is key. Meller Speakman will be carrying out surveys of all managed properties on septic tanks over the next 12 months and advising clients of the necessary works.

Please get in touch if you would like us to advise you.

EPC Regulations

Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) Regulations mean that from 01 April 2018, it is illegal to re-let properties with a rating lower than ‘E’. Both domestic and non-domestic properties in England and Wales will need to meet these minimum standards. EPC Certificates are valid for 10 years and all properties must have current certificates in date.

Farmhouses let under an agricultural tenancy, both Agricultural Holdings Act (AHA) 1986 tenancies and Farm Business Tenancy (FBT) are exempt from these regulations. Licences are also not within the scope of the regulations. Residential properties let under the following tenancies are required to comply with the new regulations:

  • – Assured tenancies under Housing Act (HA) 1988 (including ASTs)
  • – Regulated Tenancies Under Rent Act 77
  • – Assured agricultural occupancies under s.24 HA 1988
  • – Protected tenancies – s.3(6) Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976
  • – Statutory tenancies – s4(6) Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976
  • – Excludes social housing but includes extensions and renewals

A new tenancy or renewal of an existing tenancy will not be issued on any properties below an ‘E’ rating after 01 April 2018. Fine of up to £5,000 for Landlords who are in breach of this new legislation.  Properties with existing tenancies will need to have an EPC rating of ‘E’ or above by 01 April 2020.

Properties with ratings below an E will need to make efficiency improvements to boost the rating before the property is compliant to let. EPC reports provide a list of recommended measures to help improve the energy efficiency performance of the property. Due to the nature of many older rural houses and cottages, these have been highlighted as more susceptible to not reaching the required standards and won’t always meet the standards required for compliance. There are a number of temporary exemptions which Landlords can register for on 01 October 2017 if any of the following criteria applies:

  • – The Landlord has made all relevant energy efficiency improvements and the EPC rating is still ‘F’ or ‘G’
  • – There are no relevant energy efficiency improvements that can be carried out to the property.
  • – Devaluation: The required improvements will either cause damage or reduce the value of the property by 5% or more
  • – Consent: It is not possible to gain the consent for the works to be completed required by the Tenant, Lender or Superior Landlord.
  • – Cost: The identified improvement measures are not cost-effective, either within a seven year payback or under the Green Deals Golden Rule.
  • – New Landlords (further rules apply).

Exemptions are valid for 5 years from the date of registered.

We strongly advise that those letting properties, start implementing the required changes immediately to ensure compliance by the 01 April 2018. This will also allow the cost of works to be staggered if extreme measures are required. Meller Speakman are able to provide further advice on this, if required please contact get in touch.

Succession Planning

Succession Planning

Succession planning is key to protecting the future prosperity of a family business.  Owners of family businesses should assess their short and long-term objectives, potential structural risks to the business and plan for generational changes.  Businesses should also assess the impact the loss of key player could have on the day-to-day management, again both short-term and long-term.    

Businesses should aim to have robust and logical plans agreed and put in place that will avoid unnecessary last-minute conflicts, ambiguity and muddled business strategies and help maximise available tax reliefs along the way.  It is all too common for landowners and agricultural businesses to leave succession planning until the ‘11th-hour’, just ahead of the passing of a family member, or when it is often too late, i.e. after the sudden death of a family member or when a key player can no longer continue in their role.  This often leads to an illogical approach to planning, making the whole experience stressful and worse than necessary; can lead to family and shareholder disputes and place a business under unnecessary financial pressure.  Good succession planning allows time for potential business risks that could have a significant impact on the business to be discussed, evaluated and key objectives agreed allowing the correct strategy and business structures to be adopted. 

Businesses and families should take a proactive stance by starting discussions early on, ensuring all involved parties have a chance to voice their future ambitions and objectives and how they wish to achieve them. This will provide a platform for logical, well thought-out plans and appropriate structures to be considered.

Future generations should be brought into businesses from an early stage, slowly building skills and knowledge whilst older generations still have overall control.  Clear lines of responsibility provide accountability, but also helps younger generations feel they add value and are a valued part of the business.

To plan, it is recommended that an independent third-party agent is appointed to offer advice on structures to assist with discussions.  This can also help avoid a breakdown in communication.

Removing Agricultural Occupancy Conditions

Removing Agricultural Occupancy Conditions

Do you own a property which is subject to an agricultural occupancy condition? Are you looking at getting it removed (or modified)?

In order to do this you will need to apply to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to determine that the condition is no longer deemed necessary.  If that is refused, then the matter can be taken to appeal for decision by a planning inspector. 

The process is often a difficult one because LPAs must be persuaded that the dwelling, which was probably only given planning consent on the grounds that it was required for an agricultural worker, is genuinely no longer required for that purpose.  Further, the wording of the most modern occupancy conditions is such that the issue has to be proven for the locality generally and not just in relation to the particular farm in question.

An agricultural occupancy condition can be “lifted” in one of two ways:

(1)     By applying for the removal of the occupancy condition.  If successful, the condition will be removed from the planning consent and the property is then unburdened. 

(2)     If the property can be shown to have been occupied in breach of the condition for ten years, then the application can be made for a Certificate Of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development

When applying for the removal of the condition, as set out under (1) above, LPAs will expect to see detailed evidence to support an application for the lifting the restriction. 

The most difficult issue to address is how to respond to the common insistence by the LPA that there is a lack of demand for that type of accommodation from those employed or last employed in agriculture.  The real test here should be that of whether there is a need for an agricultural occupancy condition on that dwelling (in its locality) and not of demand for it.  Marketing can only test demand, not need. 

The common traditional approach required by LPAs has been to test the market for potential occupiers by offering the property for sale or to let with marketing over an agreed period with appropriate advertising, often on a basis agreed in advance with the LPA.

Alongside the required marketing effort, it will usually be expected that he property must be offered at a discounted price to reflect the condition. 

Other evidence which might help to demonstrate a lack of demand (or indeed need) for agricultural workers’ dwellings in the area might include:

  • – a review of the general demand for housing in the area;
  • – an assessment of the number of rural workers employed in the area at the current time, compared to the number employed when the property became subject to the condition;
  • – details of any new rural workers’ dwellings made subject to occupancy conditions over say, the last five years;

For further information and advice on the above please contact Peter Wain, Managing Director.