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Septic Systems – what is required?

Septic Systems

Many people think septic systems are a thing of the past when buying property.  While that may be true in most residential areas, rural properties are most likely still connected to a septic system.  So, if you are looking to buy or sell a property with a septic system – read on to see what you may need to do.


  • What is an approval to operate an onsite sewer management system?
  • What is the property required to do?
  • Purchasing a property with an on-site sewer management system

If the property is not or cannot be connected to town sewer (sewer mains) then it is most likely connected to an onsite sewer management system.  These systems include septic tanks, composting toilets and aerated systems.


As a property owner at the time the on-site sewer management system is contemplated for the property it necessary to gain approval from your local council to install the system of choice.

Once the system is installed the second approval known as an approval to operate an on-site sewer management system is required.

It is the property owners responsibility to ensure that the system is approved and correctly maintained.  The Approval to Operate will set out the basic rules that need to be followed to ensure the system continues to work correctly.

What if you do not have a current Approval to Operate?

Operating an on-site sewage management system without an Approval to Operate is an offence and may result in Council issuing a penalty infringement notice. Continued non-compliance may result in further action.

Responsibilities as septic system owner

As a septic system owner, you are required to satisfy the basic rules set out in the Approval to Operate, these include but are not limited to:

  • Ensuring the house drain and tank do not leak and if there is an issue have it fixed promptly;
  • Keep the system well maintained;
  • Ensure the system is checked regularly (this is typically something to be undertaken quarterly);
  • Have the tank pumped when required;
  • Comply with Council requirements for installation, maintenance requirements and operation of the system.

Generally, your local council will undertake regular inspections of your septic system and evidence of maintenance by way of reports or similar documents may be required.

Purchasing a property with an existing on-site sewer management system

When purchasing a property with an on-site sewer management system your conveyancer will request the following from the vendor:

  • Copy of the Approval to Operate which should be current;
  • Copy of Maintenance Reports or similar; and
  • A Drainage Diagram (if not already contained in the Contract).

Together these documents will help to ascertain whether the system has been approval by the local council, if it has been maintained correctly and where the pipes run on the Property to connect to the system.

These documents also allow you to know if there are any defects in the system and your conveyancer can seek to have them rectified prior to settlement.

It is important to note that the Approval to Operate is not attached to the Property.  Therefore following settlement, the purchaser needs to apply to Council to have a new Approval to Operate issued in their name.

For further information please don’t hesitate to contact Coutts Lawyers.
1300 268 887

Contact Coutts today.


This blog is merely general and non-specific information on the subject matter and is not and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice. Coutts is not responsible for any cost, expense, loss or liability whatsoever to this blog, including all or any reliance on this blog or use or application of this blog by you.

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