Reader Question: We have recently rented a property that has a septic tank. Is it up to us to clean it out? If so, how often should we do it and where can we find someone reliable?
Although the French public health code stipulates that the owner of a septic tank (fosse septique) is responsible for regular sludge removal and cleaning, where properties are rented out, it falls to the tenant or locataire to do the work.
As part of your rental agreement, your landlord should have given you all the technical documents about the tank, and a maintenance logbook listing all removal work that has been done to date.
Around 20% of French homes, particularly in rural areas, have septic tanks.
Current regulations do not include specific dates for emptying a fosse septique, as it depends on how it is used, but with average use, it should be emptied about every four years.
Article L1331-1-1 of the public health code requires emptying a septic tank (although not fully) before it reaches half-full. It should be possible to ‘dip’ the tank or insert a stick to assess the sludge level.
Emptying a fosse septique must always be done by an approved professional contractor or firm, who should give you an emptying certificate for your logbook.
Communes have a service public d’assainissement non collectif (SPANC), which issues 10-year reminders to empty septic tanks and, in some areas, it is able to help with the process.
Otherwise, the prefecture or town hall might have a list of reliable firms. Some people report asking local farmers for help.
It costs around €100 to €300 to remove sludge from a septic tank but charges vary from region to region.