Charged for drains service I can’t use at French home

Our village has been connected to mains drainage. We have not yet been able to have the work done for our home to be connected to it but have received a bill from Suez Eau France charging us €396.55 for “Collecte et Traitement des Eaux Usées” [collection and treatment of waste water]. Surely it is illegal to charge for something that is not being done? S.D.

30 October 2019
By Oliver Rowland

The issue is not whether your home is connected to mains drainage (raccordé) but whether it could be connected (raccordable).

The public drains system should run down the public highway and your home should have access to it, including via private roads, and your home should be in a zone designated as being eligible for being connected.

If this is the case, you must be connected within two years and the water service is permitted to start charging a fee.

Having an existing septic tank in this case does not exempt you from this obligation, although a regulation dating from 1960 defines an exception for immeubles difficilement raccordables, ie. buildings which are hard to connect.

For example, if they are far from the mains drainage system, up or downhill from it, or the ground is stony.

It may be necessary to go to court for a judge’s ruling.

France’s top administrative court found that a campsite toilet block that was 200m from the main road and downhill from it did not have to be connected.

If your home is raccordable and you do not connect within two years, the mairie may oblige you to do it, and a fine may be imposed.

The law which gives the right to the commune – or an operator delegated by the commune to run the waste water treatment service – to levy a charge even though a home is not yet connected is article L1331-1 of the Code de la santé publique.

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