DIY influencer 'loses £4,000' after buying house with collapsed septic tank

A bungalow with green shed housing a septic tank that is falling down next to it
A homebuyer ended up losing £4,000 after a survey found that the home's septic tank was collapsing and the bank refused to lend on it (Image credit: @TheCarpentersDaughterUK)

A homebuyer ended up losing thousands after discovering the septic tank for a property she was looking to buy was collapsing and didn't meet general binding rules standards.

Vikki Lee, who runs the YouTube channel 'The Carpenter's Daughter' was looking for an agricultural home to renovate and thought she found the ideal home for her and her partner.

However, it was later revealed the septic tank for the property did not comply with current standards, which meant she could not secure a mortgage for the property, costing her thousands after she had already started the homebuying process.

She spoke to Homebuilding & Renovating about her experience and offered some tips on how others can avoid the same fate when buying a rural property.

Septic tank didn't 'comply with current standards'

Vikkie thought she had found her ideal home, a 1980s bungalow, but after discovering the septic tank for the property was not useable, the home was deemed unmortgageable. This meant she was forced to pull out of the sale despite having already spent thousands of pounds on the process.

The septic tank survey for the property, which cost the couple £800, read: "This tank has started to collapse. It is not safe to be around due to the side wall and front side collapsing. This will require a new Klargester sewage treatment plant the out let to the septic tank discharges to a land drain, which doesn't comply with current standards."

After discovering this the couple found it almost impossible to secure a mortgage on the property after lenders made it clear the septic tank would need to be updated to comply with general binding rules, which allow homes to use a septic tank without needing an environmental permit.

Their mortgage broker told them: “The valuer has confirmed that the property is not suitable security to lend against until the system has been renewed. This means that it wouldn’t matter how much deposit you put down on the property, the lenders won’t lend on the property until the septic tank is fixed.”

A working plumber opens a sewer hatch. Maintenance of septic tanks and water wells

Vikkie discovered that banks would not lend on the property whilst the septic tank was still in a state of disrepair and would not lend no matter how large a deposit she put down (Image credit: Getty Images)

Vikkie claimed this was due to a regulation change for general binding rules that stated that if septic tanks were not updated by 2020 buyers had to establish a timeframe to update them with lenders.

Vikkie said: "No matter how much money we put down it became clear it was basically a cash only purchase."

This meant the couple had lost around £4,000 after house survey costs, solicitor fees, mortgage advice and other costs. She added: "We've got nothing to show for it, it's expensive so far, but because we knew we liked rural properties we were now having to scrap the idea of a mortgage and were just going to have a look at cheaper houses."

Vikkie stated she felt the UK property industry would be better to have Scotland’s system where you can view a home report for all properties containing all the legal information for properties.

"It would save people a lot of time and money – especially when another buyer tries to purchase the same house later down the line, they may go through the same costly expense if the sellers are withdrawing any information that came to light," she claims.

Vikki's advice when buying a rural property

Vikkie now wants to help other homebuyers avoid falling for the same pitfalls that she did when buying a rural property. She said, based on what she learned from the process, her advice was to:

1. Ask the estate agents as many questions as possible - "They have a duty to tell the truth, so don't feel uncomfortable. ALWAYS do your due diligence before putting in an offer (as much as possible), such as contact the council early for planning approval documents."

2. Get the title plans and deeds on the HM Land Registry website - "They're £3 each, but note, the plans may not reflect what is there, which can take months to be updated. We found on the second property we tried to buy had a hidden agricultural clause that wasn't on the title deeds."

3. If the property has a septic tank, ask when it was emptied last - "We had a lot of sellers tell us it had never been emptied, which would raise a red flag and try to factor in the price of an upgrade which can vary. Our solicitor warned us that one of her clients had a quote of £30,000 to update a septic tank on a property they were buying, so it could be much worse than you anticipate."

Forced to continue living on narrowboat

The delay in finding their new home has forced Vikkie and her partner to continue living on a narrowboat that she thought would only be a temporary, short-term solution, but ended up being 14 months.

Vikkie sold her old home and decided to live on the narrowboat before moving to a new property. With this came a number of issues as Vikkie explained: "After a few months I felt stressed as I wasn't used to compact living as I have a lot of hobbies, like cooking and DIY and most of my things were in storage. 

"Logistically it was a pain as our car had to be nearby, (usually about a 10 minute walk) as we needed to view other properties, regularly visit my father-in-law in hospital and bring food shopping home (which, we’d have to be careful not to buy anything too heavy to walk with)."

Despite the challenges Vikkie explained said "it was wonderful getting a new view every couple of weeks" and the narrowboat "was extremely peaceful and safe".

"We eventually got into a routine of running the engine to get hot water and top up the batteries if we didn't get enough solar the previous day."

The couple were able to work from the boat full time, but this meant she had to delay her projects for her DIY YouTube content on her channel 'The Carpenter's Daughter', which has almost 100 thousand subscribers as she covers loads of DIY jobs from renovating a kitchen to building a summerhouse.

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.