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Ask Ronan Your Own Question
Ronan, Solicitor
Category: Republic of Ireland Law
Satisfied Customers: 2245
Experience:  B. Corp Law, Ll.B. Dip Comm Prop. In general practice for more then 6 years
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Hi I have a question about a septic tank issue, and I need

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I have a question about a septic tank issue, and I need to give some background first.

I own a house here in NW Connemara, bought in 2000 from a man who turned out to be a well known bully, wife/child-beater, fraud, liar...truly; this isn't merely my assessment of him. He's an ex-soldier, loves representing himself in court, goes to law or threatens to when it suits him, has assaulted several people (including me and my partner, upon which he claimed, wrongly, that it was we, two women, who had assaulted HIM, and the cases were dismissed)...

In 2005, a cottage adjoining our back garden, also owned by this guy, was put on the market (I still had an OK relationship with him then, and kind of didn't mistrust his word, though I knew by then that he wasn't a nice guy). It had actually been built by him as a shed/barn, but in fact was built as a residence, back around about 1985, and used as such (as a rented out holiday home) by him. Because of its proximity, and wanting not to have either long term tenants of his or buyers who would be downright bad neighbours, I bought that cottage. At the same time, I bought a strip of land about 50m long ending in a rectangle, in a field belonging to this man, where he said the septic tank and pipe was underneath - he told me that because there were cattle there, there was no visible evidence of it; and since I didn't think he would vicariously sell me a strip of land and a rectangle in the middle of a field, I had no reason to disbelieve him. And the discharge from the cottage did go somewhere...
I now have a long term tenant - a woman - in the cottage, and it's registered with the PRTB, the tenant gets rent allowance, etc - all legal. Last year, we made an appointment with the Galway Co Co, and met with them, saying that we don't like having an illegal property, and we were sure they didn't either. We wondered if we could apply for retention. They said "no", we shouldn't do that, as if we did, the application could be refused and then we might be required to take the building down. They were very friendly, and theiur suggestion, which we followed, was to do nothing - as they said, there's nothing at all they can do about it's being there as a residence, and "good luck".
Now to the point of all this. It turns out that the cottage DOES have a septic tank (and sewer pipe) in the nasty man's field, but not underneath the strip/rectangle which he sold us.
The strip plus rectangle isn't marked out, and we're about to have it surveyed by an engineer, as we know we need at SOME time to do so in order that he not be able to claim rights over it.
Here is the question: what rights, if any, do we have in respect of this tank which isn't where the seller said it was? Can he cut it off from us at any time? Can we keep it where it is? Can we have access to maintain it? (BTW, we HAVE registered a septic tank for the cottage, for septic tank inspection purposes).
In the title deeds to the cottage (bought by us in '05), the requisitions on title ask about septic tank, to which the answer is "The buyer is aware". I didn't know that till I looked last year.
Unbeknown to the nasty man, we have actually diverted the discharge from the cottage to our own house's septic tank, and it works fine, but it does mean that the two properties are now conjoined in a way that I don't want in the long term. But at least it protects us/our tenant in case he does anything precipitous.
So...what rights, if any, do we have in this case? What can/should we do? We don't have that much money for an expensive court case.
This guy has also harrassed us in other ways. For example, he tried to claim that he owned part of the cottage back garden, even though the land map is registered with the Land Registry people, and even though he himself built the boundary walls exactly where we had agreed the boundaries. He also erected a 'spite gate' (which has no purpose but to harass us, and in fact doesn't even function as a gate), at a time when he sent us a bill for 'work' which we hadn't commissioned, and we refused to pay him.
This is a nasty piece of work, and it's clear that he deliberately defrauded us over the location of the tank and pipe for the cottage. Maybe the answer is "caveat emptor" and "wasn't I stupid?". But at the time I tended to try to trust people.
A definitive answer would be much appreciated.
Thank you

Unfortunately, the maxim of caveat emptor does apply to property transactions and it is the purchasers responsibility to ensure that all matters in regard to planning, structural integrity, title etc must be examined by the purchaser. In this case an engineer should have been engaged at the time of purchase to examine boundaries, planning compliance and structure, wayleave

However, we are where we are. What is required is a wayleave over his land for the purposes of the septic tank and its maintenance. Unfortunately you cannot claim a wayleave by long use as it has not been used by your property for a sufficiently long enough period (20 years required)

Therefore unless you wish to engage him to see if he will grant you a wayleave over the piece of ground there is little that you can do.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you very much.


Your reply wasn't unexpected, although obviously disappointing to me.


I MAY have a follow-on query, so if you don't mind I'll delay in 'finishing' until tomorrow morning. I hope that isn't a bother to you; let me know if it causes a problem for you.


Thank you again for your prompt and helpful response to date.

Not a problem
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Ronan, (1) given that the land map which form part of the Deeds shows what is clearly intended to be a strip of land above a pipe, and a rectangle at the end of it which is clearly intended to be above a septic tank; and given that even though the cottage was and is a residence with a bathroom, etc, for which a septic tank would be required, would there not be a case to be made by inference, if I were to go to court on this, that I would have had a reasonable expectation that the tank would have accompanied the property and been located where the map infers? And (2), given that the existing tank is connected to our cottage by its pipe, does it not belong to us, even if it isn't within our own land (in other words, whose property is the pipe attached to the outlet from our cottage, and the septic tank attached to the end of the pipe? Even if it's in the seller's land, do we not own that tank and pipe? And if we do, is he entitled to interfere with it without notice (I could well imagine that he could be entitled to give us due notice to remove it..., but can he do anything to it without giving us due notice? Would that not be considered to be criminal damage?

The contract and deed of transfer are as drafted and executed and the lands should have been properly examined initially prior to purchase. There is no basis for suggesting that an implicit term to the contract would entitle you to a further piece of ground

The grounds on which you can imply terms in to a contract are as a result of custom and practice, statute, as a matter of fact or as a matter of law. I don't believe any of those grounds would be relevant in your case for the purpose of gaining title to lands that were not part of the initial sale.

You may have some success arguing there was an implicit wayleave over the neighbours land but for the cost involved you would be as well served simply installing a new septic system on your own lands. Also the fact that the house isn't planning compliant may well negate this

You may own the pipe on your and but the tank is not on the lands you bought nor do you have a wayleave over it. It was never sold to you. He is absolutely entitled to interfere with it and remove it if he so wishes as you have no entitlement to have it there in the first instance and no, I would not consider it criminal damage if he removed it

Also I suspect from what you say that this tank is not up to code as it was illegally installed without planning and may well present a enviromental risk for which both of you could be prosecuted. To be honest you don't want ownership of it and the solution you have come up with in relation to the use of your own tank is probably the best for the time being
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