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S.P.A.N.C.


 

Three years ago I wrote an article for this web site on Septic Tanks (fosse septiques) - http://papillon-properties.com/articles/Archive/art05.htm - but in January 2011 the law changed (again!).  Now, with the Compromis de Vente the seller has to provide an inspection report on their property’s drainage system having been inspected within the proceeding 3 years.  The organisation used to do this work is known as S.P.A.N.C.  (Service Public d’Assainissement Non Collectif)

This organisation was established through the local water boards.  They provided the expertise for each commune to know the systems of drainage for each property in the commune, and the relationship of those systems to the EU directive on the treatment of waste water.  Thus meeting the government edict to communes in France.

As a property owner in rural France you will receive/or have received a letter informing you of an appointment for your drainage system to be inspected.  In our commune a public meeting was held by S.P.A.N.C. and officers of the local water board, to explain the why, and what this was all about. 

They opened by saying that they should not be viewed as policemen there to investigate wrongdoing, but as a doctor concerned with your health and that of the environment.   These inspections will take place every 10 years.  At the inspection you will be given a full report on what exists and how/or not it conforms to the current legislation.  A charge would be made for the inspection (and this varies between Departments).

It may be that your system operates correctly and does not pollute but conforms to earlier legislation and is not as efficient as it could be. Recommendations will be made by the inspector as to what should be done to improve it’s performance.  It may be that the system is condemned, if it is very old.  Without doubt you will be advised to have the system emptied, and the general recommendation is that this is done every 5 years;  however it does depend on the usage of the property, i.e. a family of 5 full time will not have the same requirements as a 2 person holiday home used for 6 weeks of the year. 

At the time of the inspection a measurement will be taken of the free liquid in the tank.  A Septic Tank will always look full and it will be crusted on the top – beneath this top layer is liquid and on the bottom of the tank is the part processed waste.  If the bottom layer is greater than 50% of the tank’s volume it needs to be emptied. 

We recently had our 3000 litre tank emptied by a professional waste disposal organisation and it cost 200 €;  in some areas the water board makes an annual charge and then automatically empties the tank every 4 years for nothing.  This is France – nothing is quite the same Department to Department;  possibly in a Nation of Civil Servants there has to be a spark of individuality!

Whatever the outcome of the report, any work needed must be completed within 4 years.  As yet, there is no indication as to how this will be enforced.

However, the report produced with the Compromis de Vente obliges the purchaser to bring the system to conformity within 1 year of purchase, and this will be explained at the signature of the final Act of Sale by the Notaire.  Again, though, there is no indication as to how this will be enforced. 

Depending on what is required, this could be a bargaining point – although a good agent should have already drawn the seller’s attention to this and marketed the house at a price to take account of the work needed.  Private purchasers beware!

I am sure I will be revisiting this subject in a couple of year’s time!

Susan Dixon, Papillon Properties, July 2011

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