Fosse Septique, the new laws for 2012


Does anyone have a true understanding of the new laws concerning septic tanks in france?

Briefly... due to the failing health of my parents in the UK I want to sell my house in the Aude, SPANC have recently given me a defavourable certificate for my tank and I now find that I have 4 years to change the system on the face of it that's not too stressful...however I live fairly close to the Canal du Midi with only a relatively small (4x4 mtrs) courtyard to call my own. The present fosse is located under the patio of this courtyard garden and is acceptable but the land on which the treatment bed which is located is fundamentally unacceptable due to it's depth, plus the land on which it is situated is only part shared with the other owners on the estate.

I speak french reasonably well but am still learning, I think SPANC are demanding (in the true sense of the word) that we try to buy a parcelle of this common land which is actually a chemin and it would not be possible to purchase a portion of it.

I have found a complete micro system which would fit into my courtyard but still need to find a solution for the filtered water. I had hoped to be able to use the present pipework for my current treatment bed on the shared land as a ready made ditch or riseau but I'm not sure if only being a part owner of the common land would be acceptable to SPANC.

The only real option SPANC have offered would be to close the tank which unrealistically would mean at a huge cost having it emptied 2/3 times monthly, though on his last visit the man from SPANC said we may still not be able to acheive 'acceptable' with this solution as they're trying to 'outlaw' closed tanks in France...this option is only for the rich and would render my house unsellable!

The sale of my house is presently too important and issue to leave to chance, as due to the language barrier and the technicalities of the situation I may have actually got the wrong end of the stick

Has anyone else had the same misfortune and can offer some advice?



many thanks to everyone for your suggestions!

Yeh, we are on one hell of a slope and on rock too, so installing the kind of fosse we ought to would be messy and expensive, would involve electric pumps to bring kitchen sink water around and up the hill to the fosse location. I am not at all sure we have enough level ground for the run offs either

It would be less a question of installing a fosse more of relandscaping

Heads down and keep schtum, thats the way forward

This is all very, very simple.

There is definitely no definitive answer!

36,569 Mairies, gives you 36,569 possible opinions and interpretations of the law.

I have one set of friends in the 06 who have had their 12 year old septic tank dismissed as non conforme on inspection, despite imho being perfectly reasonable except for the lack of ventilation. And another in the Var who just got their acceptance of permis de construire through yesterday without a murmur of the fact they are adding bedrooms and the existing 30 year old septic is under half the obliged size already, nobody knows where the drains go at all, and it's only 7 meters from a well that feeds all their garden watering system!

If you can, fit a new generation certified septic tank system like the Biofosse and save yourself all the potential hassles of many of the mini stations like the Klargester that break down for fun. As for the compact and super expensive Eparco system, our SPANC chap collapsed in fits of laughter when asked about them. Don't lose that 10 year warranty certificate is all he would say . . .

Plus, yes, sleeping dogs lie is a great plan if you can get away with it too.

No the grant seemed unlikely. The mec also told me that the old dear up the road didnt even have a fosse, just a pipe from the wc that went 100m into the woods and a pit.

He said they had no intention of pursuing a 90 year old woman with little money, she could keep her homely arrangement. Whoever had her house next would be chased up though.

Seemed very reasonable of him

Definitely let the chiens sleep on! They will get round to us all in the end, however, there will be a huge backlog, we have just sold one french house with a non conform fosse and bought another with the same, both notaires dealing with the sales said that in 'theory' we have a year to update the fosse, but not to worry if we haven't managed to do it within that time! Have never heard of a grant being given to anyone I have worked for.

Thanks Keith, I think it was pre 2009.

Ah well 2013 is probably hopeful for our mob, also we seem to be on a dividing line between 2 communes. When the village we think we belong to installed horrific 'street lights' down the long lane that, just past our house,becomes a white road and another commune,, they didnt install one on our power pylon instead they stopped at the house 1/4 mile back. This was a blessing as the street lights are more like floodlights and stay on til 11pm totally ruining the country atmosphere

They also seem to not give a **** about the tarmac on our last section of lane and even the dustcart wont come down as they argue they cant turn around after our house so we have to carry the bags down the road to a place where they can turn around

So basically we are keeping quiet!

yes it will be a problem if we sell, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it

Id like to know what's going on.

Our second home is in the middle of nowhere and has a fosse from the middle ages, or possibly the 1960s

The inspector came around 4 years ago and condemned it out of hand as expected. I speak fluent french and the young bloke said to me, there may be a grant to upgrade it, do nothing til you hear.

Well that was the last we heard. The current fosse does fine given the small amount of work it has do per year and doesnt smell. We had it emptied soon after the inspection.

Personally Ive a mind to let sleeping chiens lie, in my experience no good ever comes of waking up french beaurocracy as they rather resent being made to do any work and will take it out on you.

what do you chaps think?

Thanks for posting this Keith, good stuff.



I am an artisan diggerman and I install a lot of fosse septiques including dealing with the SPANC for clients as I have fluent French, I agree with Glenn, the micro system should leave the water clear enough to enter any water course. Also Ben is correct in saying that it is the purchaser's responsibility to get the system up to the norm, they have 12 months in which to do this, do not be brow beaten by the authorities!

Hi Martyn,

Drains have been issues in both the sale of our home and 2 house purchases last year. When we sold our house in April 2011 our system did not comply so our sale was temporarily blocked as buyer's notaire objected to the fact that the buyer had one year to install new system and wanted us to deduct that cost from the sale ( it was assessed at approx 15,000 euros) - our Maire and the local SPANC said they wouldn't apply the law to the new buyers as the system was satisfactory under previous inspection but no longer to new law, but neither would put that in writing so we went round and round in circles for a while until my husband found a solution ( neither notaire had been bothered to look any further than the texts). The village is due to have mains drainage installed at some time in the future - no specific dates - so we negotiateded with vendors to 'block' 7500 euros( 50% of cost of new system) at the notaire's s for 2 yrs and if within that time the new owners were not obliged to install new system we would get our money back and this 2 yrs period would also give buyers a clearer vision as to when and if they could connect to mains drainage without having to dig up the garden twice and have double the expense, so negotiation won in the end. We hope to recuperate our funds next April as buyers quite happy with present system and they haven't been approached by local authorities.

When we bought a small village cottage with no flush toilet or bathroom and practically no garden, in October 2011, we went to the Mairie before signing our acte de vente, not wanting an issue again, and they said ' we won't put this in writng, just connect to the rain water drainage system like everyone else in the village, we hope to have the mains drainage installed soon but the company who won the tender has gone bankrupt..' - we have a nice flush toilet and a shower and kitchen all piped into the neighbours system that goes out into a huge water pipe under the road, all this installed by local artisan and the mayor came to visit the other day and said how nice it was to see the cottage with it's new installations....

When we bought our property here in Provence in Sept 2011 we negotiated the price to cover the cost of installing the new system as vendors wouldn't have anything to do with it and we knew it would prolong our sale for ever, had a shock though when SPANC decided that we needed to have a 'mini station' which would cost 40,000 euros!! We avoided that by installing 2 complete systems for much less. Hope the above will help as I really think it depends on concerting with both SPANC, Marie, buyer, notaire and a good artisan.


If you buy a house with a non conforming system the Contract will say you have 1 year to put things right.

As an owner of an existing fosse which does not conform and you are not selling you have 4 years to do the necessary.


The life span of a sand bed filter depends on the quality of the installation and the load placed on the system by the number of occupants etc.

It would only be regarded as no longer effective if it was causing pollution of the ground/ bad smells etc which would indicate it needs replacing.

The local one stops just outside my friend's house which I thought at the time was bizarre as the road went on for about 500 metres and had many houses on it. Perhaps our mairie thought the same - they could fit their own fosses.

Can't find it Keith, please send it again and I'll post it. Thanks



Thanks for this and I went through all the stages you mention, the system was installed by a local specialist, after inspection by the authorities, and inspected and confirmed as OK afterwards. This is not my problem. My problem is how long will my sand filter(s) (I have two here) last before it needs replacing as neither the Mayor, nor the installer, nor the Department d'assainissement mention anything about it needing replacement or even checking?

With regard to the need to sell your property a friend recently put his house up for sale. As his fosse was not up to current requirements though perfectly servicable, when the sale was being negotiated he reduced the selling price by the cost of installing a new one and the sale went ahead.

As a result he covered the cost of 'having to' install a new fosse and his purchaser recouped that cost.

Whether or not the new owners will ever get around to installing a new fosse is anyone's guess.

Hope this helps?

Our Mairie sent me a bill towards the study for the village for a communal system - everyone had to contribute.

2 years later the scheme went ahead - when we asked why we weren`t being connected at the upper end of the village we were told "Because you have enough land for a new fosse" - it would have involved them with an extra 100 metres of trench & drain pipe!

So I had to install a new one at a cost of 9000 Euros!


The Marie grants approval for anew fosse - you must ask for approval first - don`t just go ahead on your own -they will insist on an Etude de Sol which tests the permeability of the soil to determine whether a sand bed is needed. The report cost me 598 Euros incl TVA - it gives you the options of which type & size of fosse you could have - traditional with sand filter, Compact sytem, Micro Station etc.

After obtaining quotes you ask for approval at the Mairie for your chosen system. The Mairie will check with the local SPANC representative.

I have installed 2 in the recent past & that was the system both times - one of them discharged the final filtered effluent into a ditch alongside a Departmental road - further permission was also needed from the Conseil Generale in Perigueux - it took 6 months from start to finish!

The second one was into a communal ditch alongside an unclassified road & only the Mairie and SPANC were involved.

As per my replies earlier I chose a Compact system for virtually zero running costs compared to a Micro station and longer lasting than a sand bed filter which doesn`t last forever.