Never had a SPANC inspection

We live on top of a small mountain in the Pays Basque in the foothills of the Pyrenees. When we bought the house in 2005, the previous owners told us that the fosse septique doesn't need to be emptied and there is no inspection cover and our grey water just runs down the side of the mountain. As we sit in 24 hectares of land, this does not affect anyone else.

We have never been inspected by SPANC and talking to our neighbours, they are in the same situation. We believe we are exempt due to our geological circumstances. If you dig down a few feet you hit solid rock!

Has anyone else had a similar experience?

what a lot of people do not know,or are sometimes not told,that the micro systems are not allowed in holiday or second propertys,as it not allowed to have unattended power surplys on a unlived in property. this would be a problem if you want to sell the house and a person who wishes to buy wants it for a holiday home. also,it used to be,as someone said,a year for new buyers to put right defects on a fosse. we have just sold and purchased,and both the houses fosses did not comply.the notaire has insisted that both fosses are renewed before the final signing,a thing a lot more notairs are insisting on.they hold the money back and pay the contracters direct.when done,the final signing can be done. one other thing,spanc/saur, have taken on loads more inspectors,so inspections will be carried out more frequently,and for everyone,so be warned!

We have built a new house on solid rock and opted for a microstation (see Le Bijou blog on this site) which may not need to be dug into the ground if you can build the ground up around it, though it needs to be below the property. It can be placed close to the house and requires a small electrical unit for the pump (to aerate the water) nearby. The exiting water is clean enough to water plants with and for SPANC purposes you should have three holey pipes draining the outflow away from the unit. We also have an older property with an old fosse which has been inspected and passed but with a couple of suggestions. My mother's did not pass but she cannot afford to do anything about it so doesn't. They could turn up at any time - or not at all. If you want to sell without SPANC approval, perhaps get a quote for work to be done or a microstation and give the buyers some indication of the costs involved.

I have gone through the deeds three times now and can find no mention of the sanitation. Should something have been included and is this the notaire failing to their job?

We are just about to have our fosse checked by SAUR, they are doing the whole commune, and we have to pay for the privilege.

It was only installed a couple of years ago and signed off by SPANC. When our installer queried the need for the inspection with SAUR, he was asked if the approval had been carried out by SPANC or ARS.

I thought he was taking the mickey, but I have discoveded that SPANC is the "Service Public d'Assainissement Non Collect" and ARS is the "Agence Régionale de Santé".

Only in France.........................

Did you ever find out what is written in the house deeds regarding sanitation ? (just as a matter of interest)

Thanks for the information. That is extremely useful. We have now discovered the reason why we haven't had a SPANC report. Water and sewerage are the responsibility of our commune (Montory) and it has been busy putting in mains drainage for the village so hasn't as yet got around to setting up a local SPANC for those too far away to be connected to the mains. It is unlikely that we will be inspected until later next year - being such a small commune (300 people) there are limited resources. I have also discovered that if we sell the house before we have our SPANC report, we need a letter from the Maire explaining the reason for the lack of an inspection report to give to the notaire. As you say, we are unlikely to pass the inspection so if we do sell in the meantime you have given me an idea of a solution and cost. So thanks again. I suppose the unknown quantity is the cost of installation?

I remember the signs being put up and the Commune was not responsible but the Region. Our village also has only about 20 houses of which 20% are holiday homes.

One of the wonderful realities of French life is the Government passes law after law after law without the slightest idea of who will administer and/or enforce them. There simply aren't enough Inspectors to go round! Our experience of Maires is that most don't want to rock the boat, and to get re-elected for the sinecure. Yet another fact of life the Government here doesn't seem to comprehend.

Did anyone else pickup on the new plans to 'simplify administration'? The main thing seemd to be to no longer require a 200 page dissertation to close down a company - a mere 20 pages will do.

Not a word about encouraging opening and developing new ones! What planet do these people come from?

I should have said a 'septic system' not a tank, but the rest applies? Two friends of ours actually put them in themselves in their gite setups.

The basic fosse system is what is at my cottage- it's been there about 39 years now (I had it installed!) and it's still working so not bad value! It's about a mile from the nearest drainage system and at minus about 100 metres so connection would be a bit of a problem!

Hi Norman

Thanks for the information - that's really helpful. I suppose I always assumed that a fosse would involve a container of some description.

At least you are now on mains and don't have to deal with future changes to the laws on fosse septiques! Unfortunately, being about 2km outside the village and top of a small mountain I don't think we will ever be on mains.

Actually Karen, that IS a form of septic tank and is called a 'soakaway' if I remember correctly. We had one in our former house in the lot and as I recall it is in a form of extending arms and using the Eparcyl system it filters the waste until it decomposes down to almost fresh water which then does literally soak away.

We have only recently got connected to the new mains sewage (compulsory) here in our village and we live on a ridge of land which meant having to apply pumps from our house to the connecting main street pipe, as this was the only way to force the water and waste uphill. Interestingly we had to pay for the pipe across our land to the junction on the public right of way lane - which leads uphilL.

At first they said we would have to pay for the pumps and the extra pipes to meet the upper level main drainage, but ultimately were left with the problem, as we pointed out, that we have no right or responsibility for doing work on public land at our cost. We still had to pay to get to the connection, but beyond that nothing.

Regarding doing 'nothing' our mitoyenne neighbour sits about 2-3 metres lower than us, and he French) told them to get stuffed, which seems to have worked! As theirs is a holiday home of 30-years plus maybe that made a difference, but I don't know.

Hi Jane

Our commune of 300 has just finished putting in mains drainage. It is unusual for such a small commune to still be responsible for water and sewerage. I have now discovered that it is the responsibility of the Maire to set up a SPANC for the commune to undertake the inspections. It hasn't done this yet as it is still completing the mains drainage in the village and then it will have to resurface the roads. The Maire doesn't yet have a date for setting up the commune's SPANC and we suspect that he will prolong that date for as long as possible because half of the commune like us live in farms with very old septic systems that will fail the inspection. As the Maire lives in one of these farms, he is in no rush!

We have also now discovered from a friendly notaire that as long as we have a letter from the Maire explaining that there is no SPANC at the moment that will suffice if we sell the property.

Good luck with yours!

We've never had one either. We bought this house nearly 5 years ago, just before it became obligatory.

I don't know if this has anything to do with it, but when questioning the candidates for the local elections this year about mains sewerage we were told it would be a budget of over 1million € to get everyone connected & in a commune of 2000 inhabitants it wasn't on the cards but it was a very frequent question they came across.

If we started getting SPANC inspections I think the Mairess would be scared of having a revolution on her hands & getting pelted with rotten grapes.

We complained and got absolutely nowhere. There had been no 'For Sale' on the outside of the house for 3.5 years while it stood empty and while everything was moving along a 'sold' sign was put up. Next time we came over prior to the conclusion of the purchase there had been a break-in. Coincidence? I don't think so. We have just been to air a friends house for a viewing tomorrow with one agent and noticed that the aforementioned one has put up a 'for sale' board and the house is on a fairly busy road in the daytime but typical out of the way road in the evening and overnight. Advertising for a break in or what?

I paid 16,000 Euros to the agent for purchase and am not sure what that was for!! Join the club on that one.

Hi Norman

As our nearest neighbour on that side is about 1km away, it isn't a problem for them. At the bottom of the hill is a massive field that is full of cows and sheep (so plenty of muck there). Having never encountered a fosse septique before, we had no idea what to expect but we did know it could not affect anyone else. I have just come from a discussion with several of our neighbours (we live in a farming community so a neighbour is someone who is less than 2km away). They are all in the same situation: houses sitting on top of lumps of rock - lower flat land here is too precious to build houses on. It appears that we don't actually have a fosse. The waste goes down the hill through pipes and soaks into the land. We have a fine orchard at the bottom of the hill! The other point is that the house was rebuilt in 1970 after an earthquake, which is 45 years ago so there can't be a fosse otherwise it would have overflowed years ago. Hence the reason why it never needs emptying. However, I'm sure SPANC will not be happy with it.

Karen, I don't know the techie bits, but glad I am not one of your downhill neighbours!

Seriously the situation for us in our three country purchases has ALWAYS been the situation re. Fosse Septique (or otherwise). Surely we all consider what happens to the stuff we dump down the 'loo don't we? Or just happy that it all just falls away down a slope?

OK if you have been lied to, but surely it must have dawned on someone that septic tanks have a 'limit' and need to be emptied? You have been using it for almost ten years and it never occurred to you?

Not exactly rocket science is it? As you may have gathered my sympathy is somewhat muted.

Hi Peter

Thanks so much for the info. I will check it out.