Fosse septiques

Hi Thanks to your responses to my last question about Biofuel; nothing beats the experiences of other people. The next question is all about fosses septiques. We have signed a compromis de vente and are aware that we now have 12 months to bring it up to norm. We did not realise how expensive it would be. We were not in a position to negotiate a price as this house would fly of the shelf! We paid au prix to secure it. The plumber said ‘Dont bother! If it works leave it and just get the farmer to empty it. There are thousands of people in the same position. They wont do anything.’ But my friend said ‘Be careful they can charge you and give you as little as three months to get it done.’ Etc.
There doesn’t seem to be a grant for this work. I would like to get to the bottom of this (excuse the unintended pun) Would welcome experience, advice info. Thanks!

Just get it done, get a few quotes. Allow 8-10k for it and hopefully it will come in less depending on the system required by SPANC.

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I think your plumber is somewhat out of date on current regulations concerning emptying a fosse.
You will be on the SPANC radar as well as the Mairie and you can expect to be subject to contrôles.
If you need guidance on the requirement, this reference might help:

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Definitely get it done! They had a purge (sorry!) on this locally a couple of years back and ALL septic tanks in the area were checked. Ours passed but our neighbours’ didn’t. Not worth getting the wrong side of the local authorities…

There’s a wide variation in “updating” - you should have something in the estate agents bumf from SPANC saying what doesn’t comply and what needs doing.

Very simplified there are three options - you have an old cess pit (tank that needs emptying regularly) - early fosse (sort of lets the waste rot but doesn’t have a filter bed) or a tank and a filter bed where the discharge is “clean”. Normes change with time - so an older installation can need completely replacing - having a filter bed installed or adding small stuff like air vents. It doesn’t automatically mean a new system.

The SPANC stuff should say if its polluting or simply none conforming - polluting it has to be fixed - updating … well… lets say many don’t bother and there’s not exactly a long list of individuals been prosecuted. Some people are being fined - but its pennies. In the short term whilst you get yourself sorted if its polluting then bite the bullet and put a new one in - after that take time - get quotes and think about the mess it’ll make - if it will have to be done at some point - bite the bullet sooner so the mess sorts itself out before you plant a nice garden

Yes…do not panic. Many rural folk pay a fine year after year as it takes decades to equate to the cost of a new fosse.
Technically it is correct that you should replace the fosse (if necessary) within twelve months of purchase but I know from personal experience and that of many friends that there is a great deal of flexibility. I am also sure that as with many administrative matters in France it will vary from department to department.
I am not advocating that you ignore or abuse the rules but do not overly worry yourself about it to the extend that it detracts from the more enjoyable aspects of settling into your new home.


Thank you so much Damian!

As I have made worrying an art form and although I know we will get the work done, moving is so stressful I appreciate your reassuring advice!

I hope you are happy in your new home Fiona. My advice is only as good as my personal experience and that of associates though I do have some fair understanding having owned property in France for thirty years and having also shared the experiences of others who I have helped buy houses within the capacity of my work as an ‘agent commercial immobilier’.I would offer three broad considerations…
You are generally left well alone until such time as you have a soil study (etude de sol) carried out. This is when the ball starts rolling as the surveyor presumably notifies Spanc and the matter is on record.
The more rural the property the more unlikely it is that you are to be immediately troubled.
Control systems are nonetheless becoming more sophisticated by the year and of course there are always exceptions.

I understood that one HAS to update a fosse in circumstances when structural work is being done on the property such as updating bathrooms etc. When we renovated we fitted a new ensuite and cut the original enormous bathroom in half and made it a shower room. The old (very old) fosse + bac a grasse were disconnected and a new fosse toutes eaux installed. The new one has never worked as well as the old system did. :frowning_face:

When we built our wooded frame house, a new fosse had to be installed and there were many options to consider. On the advice of the SPANC approved installer, we selected a concrete fosse because of its durability.
Not cheap (circa 8k€ all in 6 years ago) but we are very happy with it. Built like the proverbial brick shit house, as they say :wink:
The plastic ones are cheaper but dependant upon many issues, may not be the best selection for your site. That’s why you need to have a soil survey undertaken.
There is a continuing cost to the inspection regime with SPANC provided for by legislation; I believe it is naïve to think that your property will escape attention from the collection of this tax and the inspection regime. The Mairie will be aware of the change in ownership (SPANC are the agency of the Mairie) and all that will trigger, town or country.

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Of course everybody will have different experiences and as with everything there will be many truths.
Aside from the histories of associates or clients all I do know from personal experience is that when we bought our first house in the Morbihan we installed a fosse in line with the soil study provided to us by the notaire at the time of the sale. Eight years later, having not been questioned once by the Mairie or Spanc on the issue we sold the house and had the necessary inspection.
We then bought a second old farm for renovation. That was four years ago and again nobody has raised the issue. We have now had a soil study and will be replacing the fosse in the spring.
Maybe we have been fortunate not to have been troubled but we are certainly not alone.


That is an interesting point. I am sorry your new one is less efficient. I don’t suppose they give you guarantees on that kind of work.
Thank-you for the useful information. All this makes our town house a safe haven with gas central heating but no amount of imagination can make the noise of cars sound like wind rustling through leaves and the birds and not to forget space!

The rules on updating your fosse after an inspection are very clear but the enforcement procedure or penalties for not abiding by the rules are not, ultimately though one thing is obvious - if your fosse doesn’t conform and you do nothing you are potentially polluting the water course.



I’ve just come in on this thread… and below is the official bumpf which I have gleaned from SPANC and our Mairie over the years…

"Fosses are gradually being updated across France, so that pollution etc to the land/waterways et al does not occur.
This natuarally takes time and some areas are more “relaxed/laid-back” in the policing, than others.

The point of insisting on upgrade-improvements varies according to the individual situation. However, it mostly occurs when a property is sold, when the situation is no surprise and can be properly allowed for in the finances.

The Fosse non-conformity will be included in the property details and The Buyer is made aware of this… and undertakes to do the necessary work within a certain time-frame. This is a firm commitment.

Although some may say otherwise… The Buyer simply ignoring the obligation and doing nothing… is not a good idea.

If The Buyer subsequently has genuine difficulties… a word at the Mairie can often result in the Works being officially delayed/re-organized/whatever. "

(Keeping the Mairie in the loop is invaluable… ask their advice …)



There will be the usual 10 year written décennale which is required for works of this type.

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“Although some may say otherwise…The buyer simply ignoring the obligation and doing nothing is not a good idea.”

Nobody on this thread has suggested adopting such a policy.

I have reported what the Maire and SPANC have said over the years…

I thought I had made that clear… I will put inverted commas in to help…

Hi Fiona,
You maybe entitled to a loan @ 0% for your fosse installation.

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Thanks for your response. We understand the work is necessary but we have the time to find help and info on possible grants. We have had friends who had the unfortunate experience of a seepage onto their lawn!