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Problems With Drains: Who is Responsible for What?

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 18 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Drain Blockage Sewer Neighbour

You might have a good relationship with your neighbours, but neighbourhood relationships can often be sorely tested by life’s little problems. One thing that causes many a neighbourhood disagreement is who is responsible for drainage – an issue that you probably don’t even think about until the worst happens and the drains become blocked.

Who is Responsible For a Blocked Drain?

The responsibility for dealing with a blocked drain will depend on the place in the sewer or drain that’s actually blocked. The first thing you’ll need to do is establish whether the blockage is on a public sewer or a private drain.

Public or Private?

The pipe that exits your house is called a drain. When a drain from your property joins with a drain from another property, it becomes a sewer. Sewers can be public or private, and the responsibility for unblocking them if a blockage occurs all depends on whether the sewer is public or private. Typically, it’s not always easy to determine, so you might have to make some enquiries.

A public sewer is a sewer that’s been taken on by a sewerage undertaker, usually the local water authority. Once a sewer has been adopted by a water authority, the maintenance and cleaning, plus dealing with any blockages, is their responsibility. The local water authority (or sewerage undertaker) should have plans of all the sewers they are responsible for.

Private Drains

If yours is the only property using a pipe, it’s a 'private drain', which means that if it gets blocked, you are solely responsible for dealing with the blockage, and you’ll have to pay for it to be cleared by a private contractor.

Private Sewers

If your property and those of your neighbours all share the same pipe, it’s a 'private sewer'. If a private sewer gets a blockage, every household that uses it should share the cost of having the blockage cleared. If there’s a dispute over who’s responsible and it’s causing a problem, contact your local Environmental Health Officers (EHOs).

They have the power to serve a notice on everybody using a private sewer, ordering them to have it cleared within 48 hours. If an agreement still hasn’t been reached and the sewer is still blocked, the EHO will make arrangements for a private contractor to clear the sewer and will bill everyone involved – this is called 'works in default'.

What to Do if your Drain or Sewer is Blocked

If you’re not sure which type of sewer or drain is affected, contact your local EHO. They can come to the property and find out what the problem is, and where, and give you advice on what to do next. They will also be able to tell you whether it’s just your responsibility to clear the blockage, or whether your neighbours need to contribute.

If you know that the blockage is in your private section of drain, rather than in the sewer, you need lift the inspection chamber, if possible, and check whether there’s any backed up sewage. It’s also a good idea to check with the neighbours and see if they have been affected at all, even if the blockage is definitely in your pipe.

If you own the property, you’ll need to call out a specialist drain clearance company if you can't unblock the drain yourself. If you rent your property, it’s the landlord’s responsibility so call them first if you’re a private tenant. If the landlord or letting agent is unhelpful, call the EHO and they should be able to deal with them on your behalf.

What if My Neighbours Refuse to Pay Up?

If you’ve established that the blockage is in the shared sewer part of the pipes and you are all responsible, you should share the cost of having the blockage removed. Unfortunately, some people may refuse to pay or deny responsibility. The first option, if negotiating with the neighbour concerned has reached an impasse, is to contact the EHO. They have experience of this type of problem and may be able to help you reach an agreement.

If there really is no way forward and the work hasn’t been done, let alone paid for, EHO can issue a notice on everyone concerned – but bear in mind that this will push the costs up, as they don’t do it for nothing and will add an administration fee.

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Hi we live in a semi detached house. We own the entire house on one side and the house on the other is split into flats. There is a shared drain at the back that washes rain water into a drain only accessed from the neighbours side and cannot be seen from ours. We have had damp in the corner for a while and have asked the tenants in the flat adjacent if they do too but they didnt. We also asked the letting agent and they said there is no damp and referred it to the managing agent who did nothing. Yesterday we came down to find our kitchen letting in huge amounts of water in the corner and under skirting boards. As the weather got worse the kitchen got soaked. The tenant then went in to her garden and cut back brabmles to find the drain pipe was completely soaked. We have a lot of damage to our walls. We need to contact the managing agent but need to know where we stand legally as although it is a shared drain we literally have no access and no way of servcing it... anyone?
neighbour10 - 18-May-17 @ 5:54 PM
Hi I am investigating an issue of a broken Strom Drain. The part which is defective is located under the drive of a private domestic dwelling. Would Highways or the property owner be responsible for remedial works?
Tay - 12-May-17 @ 11:46 AM
Legally Can I cover the parallel drain in front of my house
Kunal - 13-Apr-17 @ 7:52 AM
Hi, I live in the side of a hill with fields to the rear and a road running uphill to the left of our property. The owner of the field behind us desired to dig a trench across his field, terminating at a highways drain. Unfortunately the drain immediately filled with mud and blocked. The water is now pouring down the lane straight onto our property. The landowner then decided to lift the drain grid and throw it in the hedge. As the water is flowing over the top of the hole where the drain grid used to be, you cannot see the hole in the ground. Someone is going to come to harm if they fall in. Is this highways responsibility or the landowner for blocking the drain?
Sid - 6-Mar-17 @ 10:06 AM
Trace - Your Question:
Im asking this on behalf of a pensioner who owns the land but her neighbour has access rights to it, now theres been a flooding ( car park) only, now the neighbour is demanding she gets it fixed and has been blaming us carers for driving over the drain cover, but everyone has to go over it, deliveries, post, waste lorries so really all who has driven across there has contributed for its collapse. Now what I want to know is should the neighbour who has access to his property contribute to the up keep of this drain as he has to cross it to get to n from his property.

Our Response:
Firstly it's worth checking her deeds to see if there are any charges to users with access rights. It's fair that if it's used regularly, the users should contribute, so it might be worth her seeking legal advice on how or if she can issue a charge to users.
ProblemNeighbours - 17-Feb-17 @ 12:01 PM
Im asking this on behalf of a pensioner who owns the land but her neighbour has access rights to it, now theres been a flooding ( car park)only,now the neighbour is demanding she gets it fixed and has been blaming us carers for driving over the drain cover,but everyone has to go over it, deliveries,post,waste lorries so really all who has driven across there has contributed for its collapse.Now what i want to know is should the neighbour who has access to his property contribute to the up keep of this drain as he has to cross it to get to n from his property.
Trace - 16-Feb-17 @ 7:53 AM
PMG - Your Question:
I have had flooding in my ground floor flat caused by a blockage In the joint waste pipe with the flat above. The blockage was caused by the neighbours in the flat above flushing baby wipes. I have had significant expense cleaning up. Who is responsible for my costs?

Our Response:
Do you have any information in your deeds about what happens in cases like this? Or are you renting? In which case, can your landlord offer any information? Check this out first. If you want to claim back the money you've paid out for clearing the blockage, you might need to so via the legal system/small claims court.
ProblemNeighbours - 16-Jan-17 @ 12:00 PM
I have had flooding in my ground floor flat caused by a blockage In the joint waste pipe with the flat above. The blockage was caused by the neighbours in the flat above flushing baby wipes.I have had significant expense cleaning up. Who is responsible for my costs?
PMG - 15-Jan-17 @ 12:27 PM
diddid - Your Question:
I have a sewer that is shared and the water board own it.Building contractors lied to visiting water inspectors and told them they have permission to replace the current manhole with two others.i checked this with the development office and they did not have permission.the builders have since removed the drain and with it all access to the back of my property. I am about to run out of oil and can't get a delivery as there is a large trench where my access should be. the water board looked at the trench on friday pm and advised me to take photos and get a solicitor invalid

Our Response:
Yes, you will need to take legal action to get your access reinstated urgently if the builders will not agree to come and do it voluntarily.
ProblemNeighbours - 10-Jan-17 @ 12:19 PM
i have a sewer that is shared and the water boardown it.Building contractors lied to visiting water inspectors and told them they have permission to replace the current manhole with two others.i checked this with the development office and they did not have permission.the builders have since removed the drain and with it all access to the back of my property. i am about to run out of oiland can't get a delivery as there is a large trench where my access should be. the water board looked at the trench on friday pm and advised me to take photos and get a solicitor invalid
diddid - 9-Jan-17 @ 12:59 PM
I'm trying to sell my house to an investor, he has had a report come back that there is a public storm drain that may/may not be underneath my house (i don't know how far down in the unlikely case if the pipe bursts who is responsible to pay to get repaired/replaced? the owner or the water company?
houseseller - 30-Dec-16 @ 9:55 PM
We share a sewer tank with our next door neighbour's. The tank is located in next door's garden. A couple of months ago they informed us that they had had the tank emptied twice since we moved on (year ago) and they were requesting we pay half the fees (which we except). However we disputed the amount they wanted us to pay as they wanted us to pay half of the cost for the period of time prior to us moving in, when the house was owned by a building company and renovated. I have offered to pay half the cost of the period we have lived here and asked for details to make payment but heard nothinf back. In the original correspondence our neighbour said they would stop us using the tank if we didn't pay the amount requested,can they do this?
Beth - 15-Dec-16 @ 10:56 PM
Adge - Your Question:
Our garage is located across the road from our property. It has been damp since we moved in 2 years ago. The garage roof was old and contained asbestos so we had the roof replaced, hoping that would go a long way to improving our damp garage. In replacing the roof, the workers pointed out the state of the existing drain pipe - once again, in such a poor state that it was no longer performing its job. When we asked them to replace the drain, we were met with resistance from our neighbours. The roof of our garage slopes towards their property. There is around 2 foot gap between the back of our garage (where the water runs off) and their garage. They claim that any drain that takes water from our garage roof and directs it towards their property is a problem. They are proposing that I remove the drain and allow the water to run off the roof, naturally, into the gap between our garages. The problem I have is that, with a new roof and drain removed, the recent wet weather has caused not just a damp garage but puddles of water in the garage, much worse than before I had the roof replaced! I have tried to accommodate my neighbours but I am not pleased that in spending thousands on a new roof, the inside water is worse than before! Help?

Our Response:
You may need to look at some form of mediation or alternative dispute resolution to find a solution that is mutually acceptable.
ProblemNeighbours - 23-Nov-16 @ 2:24 PM
Our garage is located across the road from our property. It has been damp since we moved in 2 years ago. The garage roof was old and contained asbestos so we had the roof replaced, hoping that would go a long way to improving our damp garage. In replacing the roof, the workers pointed out the state of the existing drain pipe - once again, in such a poor state that it was no longer performing its job. When we asked them to replace the drain, we were met with resistance from our neighbours. The roof of our garage slopes towards their property. There is around 2 foot gap between the back of our garage (where the water runs off) and their garage. They claim that any drain that takes water from our garage roof and directs it towards their property is a problem. They are proposing that I remove the drain and allow the water to run off the roof, naturally, into the gap between our garages. The problem I have is that, with a new roof and drain removed, the recent wet weather has caused not just a damp garage but puddles of water in the garage, much worse than before I had the roof replaced! I have tried to accommodate my neighbours but I am not pleased that in spending thousands on a new roof, the inside water is worse than before! Help?
Adge - 23-Nov-16 @ 9:48 AM
I'd like to know who is responsible for surface water grated drains in Road. The council at waltgam firest will Not accept responsibility saying its Thames water. Tgames water say it's the council and that they have no sewerconnection there or something like that. This has been going on for years. When we have heavy rain it floods. Ive had a car written off. My cellar had been flooded and still no help from either. Im now furious! How can I put pressure on council to help me. I can afford s lawyer.
ginag - 20-Nov-16 @ 10:50 AM
This is one layout houses are near by near pls tell me . Any offence of neighbourhood toilet air pipe in front of our main door pls tell me how to handle it.
Mehu - 19-Nov-16 @ 9:06 AM
Hi, We live at the bottoms of a hill and the drain in front of our house regularly gets blocked and causes flooding. The council are responsible for the drain and will often put out 'Flood' signs when the road floods. However, the flood always comes up onto the pavement and very nearly reached our house. We have been told by our councillor that he has tried on numerous occasions to get the drain unblocked properly, which is the sole reason why it floods, but to no avail. I'd like to know, after many complaints, phone calls and emails, if the flood water was to come into our house, would the council be liable for the damage caused? Many thanks
SC109 - 17-Nov-16 @ 6:10 PM
Hi, I have an unsightly soil pipe in our living room which is boxed in but have decided to have it moved outside and go into a drain which is literally the other side of the wall which is on our property but is next doors drain. It has the facility to accommodate other soil pipes so ours could easily go into it as at the moment I believe our soil pipe runs under our house to a separate drain some distance away. My question is can we use their sewer. Thanks.
Dicky - 10-Nov-16 @ 8:36 PM
NC - Your Question:
I have a problem with water flooding under our house. We had it pumped out x3, had our drains checked. Nothing to report on our side. However our neighbours were also checked, turned out there drainage pipe was broken. There sink/bath water was diverting under our property. They have replaced half the pipe, so there's no flooding under our house, except there constant rising damp. Checked under our house again still water coming through, but getting absorbed into the mud. Not sure how to resolve this.I would appreciate any advice ? Thanks Nafeesa.

Our Response:
You need to have a word with your neighbours...they might need to go back to the company that did the work and get them to come back. If your neighbours refuse to fix the problem, it might be worth contacting your insurers to see if they can do anything. Water companies are responsible for some sewers and drains, so may also be able to help you (even if that means fixing the drain and charging the neighbour).
ProblemNeighbours - 9-Nov-16 @ 10:55 AM
I have a problem with water flooding under our house. We had it pumped out x3, had our drains checked. Nothing to report on our side. However our neighbours were also checked, turned out there drainage pipe was broken. There sink/bath water was diverting under our property. They have replaced half the pipe, so there's no flooding under our house, except there constant rising damp. Checked under our house again still water coming through, but getting absorbed into the mud. Not sure how to resolve this. I would appreciate any advice ? Thanks Nafeesa.
NC - 8-Nov-16 @ 9:32 AM
evans92 - Your Question:
Im not sure if its to do with my drains or the sewer. All water that goes out my sinks, bath and everything from my toilet is coming out into the back yard and smells so bad. Also my washer isn't working due to the blockage which I think may be. Who do I ring to come check. My partner is the home owner but not sure if its lease or free.

Our Response:
You need to contact a drainage company - they will come and take a look to find out where the blockage is. Check with your water company first as they are sometimes willing to take a look if it could be a blocked sewer problem.
ProblemNeighbours - 24-Oct-16 @ 11:11 AM
Im not sure if its to do with my drains or the sewer. All water that goes out my sinks, bath and everything from my toilet is coming out into the back yard and smells so bad. Also my washer isn't working due to the blockage which i think may be. Who do i ring to come check. My partner is the home owner but not sure if its lease or free.
evans92 - 22-Oct-16 @ 9:01 AM
Alex - Your Question:
Hello,I 'm a tenant and I have problem with drains smelling bad.Basically from the house exit pipes ( 50mm of diam) that collect water from the bathroom ( bath and sinks) from the kitchen's sink and from the dishwasher and washing machine.Those pipes doesn't go straight under the ground but they are collected in open sky structures ( 30cmx30cm) ( laying agains the external house wall) outside the property and from there they fall in a sewer(drain).Sometime the water stuck and take time to be drained down and horrible smell comes out.Is this kind of implant (system) healthy or potentially dangerous for health?Is this kind of implant (system) law compliant and environment respecting?Could you give me a reference on how the drain system would be to be according to law?THANKS for advising!!!Best RegardsAlessandro Bertoenri

Our Response:
We don't know as we can't see it. Your local council's building control officer may be willing to take a look and advise you. If the problem with the foul smell persists contact your landlord and report this as a problem needing repair. If the pipe work is correct, it may be that you need to try some cleaning agent etc.
ProblemNeighbours - 21-Sep-16 @ 12:54 PM
Hello, I 'm a tenant and I have problem with drains smelling bad. Basically from the house exit pipes ( 50mm of diam) that collect water from the bathroom ( bath and sinks) from the kitchen's sinkand from the dishwasher and washing machine. Those pipes doesn't go straight under the ground but they are collected in open sky structures ( 30cmx30cm) ( laying agains the external house wall) outside the property and from there they fall in a sewer(drain). Sometime the water stuck and take time to be drained down and horrible smell comes out. Is this kind of implant (system) healthy or potentially dangerous for health? Is this kind of implant (system) law compliant and environment respecting? Could you give me a reference on how the drain system would be to be according to law? THANKS for advising!!! Best Regards Alessandro Bertoenri
Alex - 19-Sep-16 @ 8:59 PM
Jay - Your Question:
I have had a problem for 10 years with our house position. It's lower than anybody else's. It was the show house. All the drains are on our property. With this torrential weather we keep having the water and at time the drains overflow. We have put aco drains around our house. We have redesigned our garage to a room so it doesn't flood now. But now the whole house is getting flooded through the 3 doors and where the garage was. The local highway have admitting some responsibility for the design of the road. The drains can't take the amount of water. As a householder who has spent thousands of pounds on our house. What can we do now? Should they be paying our bills for damage ? How do we make sure our drives are clean and not sewage ? Have we got a right for them to buy our house off us as nobody else will? I can't take much more ! I am constantly writing emails for help. It's making me depressed and very angry. Any advice please ?

Our Response:
It sounds like you have a legal case against someone here...we're not sure whether it will be the highways agency or the developer etc but it's worth seeking legal advice. You can often get a free initial consultation with many solicitors, so shop around.
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Sep-16 @ 10:16 AM
I have had a problem for 10 years with our house position . It's lower than anybody else's . It was the show house . All the drains are on our property . With this torrential weather we keep having the water and at time the drains overflow . We have put aco drains around our house . We have redesigned our garage to a room so it doesn't flood now . But now the whole house is getting flooded through the 3 doors and where the garage was . The local highway have admitting some responsibility for the design of the road . The drains can't take the amount of water . As a householder who has spent thousands of pounds on our house . What can we do now? Should they be paying our bills for damage ? How do we make sure our drives are clean and not sewage ? Have we got a right for them to buy our house off us as nobody else will? I can't take much more ! I am constantly writing emails for help . It's making me depressed and very angry . Any advice please ?
Jay - 14-Sep-16 @ 7:23 AM
This has been happening since mid 2015. The house has flooded so many times it's ridiculous! The people who live above us flush stupid items down the toilet causing our home to suffer with horrible smells, toilets overflowing with waste as well as the bathtub and water making its way through the electrics causing danger to my son in his bedroom and downstairs. Items flushed - clothes, cigarettes, dish towels and carrier bags. We have called the council to have our time fixed but it continues over and over. We have turned off the main water supply but then the council comes to tell us to turn it on again but when we do we suffer. During July we had the toilet dismantled and to this day we haven't had it repaired. Our downstairs bathroom has yet to have the drains sealed and because of this we can smell everything that happens in our neighbours bathroom - smoke from cigars and their waste. Water occasionally leaks in the downstairs toilet as well making the only toilet we have available to use unavailable. My family and I cannot live like this any longer it is very unhygienic and it makes life difficult. No matter how many times we have our toilets fixed, our neighbours keep flushing garbage and other stuff down the toilet therefore blocking everything and flooding our home.
Gylnn - 10-Sep-16 @ 7:07 PM
Mummyberry - Your Question:
I live in a very old property that was built in 1698, a barn that was attached to the property was converted in the 1980's into two cottages, my drains run under one of the cottages, a few years ago I went away on holiday and came back to discover my neighbour had built an extension to his kitchen and rerouted the drains and a fall pipe for rain water from my property, this caused several problems and I had to have my drain relined - two of four ingress chambers for my drain are on my neighbour's property, the cottage recently changed hands and the new neighbour's have built a patio area which my ingress chamber forms part of, my question is who is responsible for any future drainage problems that may occur on my neighbour's property? I did not agree to the rerouting of the drains (which include the toilet waste) neither was I consulted when the new neighbour built their patio over the drain which had previously been under a flower bed, as far as I am aware (dye tests have been carried out) the drain only carries water and waste to my septic tank, not theirs.

Our Response:
Is there anything in your title deeds that reflects the fact your drains run under the cottage (even if the later extension and patio are not included). The neighbour's deeds might also mention something so it would be worth asking them too. It may be that you need to seek legal advice on this.
ProblemNeighbours - 6-Sep-16 @ 1:00 PM
I live in a very old property that was built in 1698, a barn that was attached to the property was converted in the 1980's into two cottages, my drains run under one of the cottages, a few years ago I went away on holiday and came back to discover my neighbour had built an extension to his kitchen and rerouted the drains and a fall pipe for rain water from my property, this caused several problems and I had to have my drain relined - two of four ingress chambers for my drain are on my neighbour's property, the cottage recently changed hands and the new neighbour's have built a patio area which my ingress chamber forms part of, my question is who is responsible for any future drainage problems that may occur on my neighbour's property? I did not agree to the rerouting of the drains (which include the toilet waste) neither was I consulted when the new neighbour built their patio over the drain which had previously been under a flower bed, as far as I am aware (dye tests have been carried out) the drain only carries water and waste to my septic tank, not theirs.
Mummyberry - 3-Sep-16 @ 8:19 AM
We bought an Edwardian end terrace house two years' ago with rear garden shared access. The road is on a hill, and drainage downhill is to the neighbour's garden with whom we share access.We have no surface water drain on our land. The neighbour has recently blocked the drainage route with planks of wood, meaning that when I water the garden there is nowhere for the water to run off. (I don't over-water). If there is a lot of dirty water, I always ensure that I hose it clean and that the drain isn't blocked. Can I ask the neighbour to remove the planks? What are my rights on access to drainage? Any help would be gratefully received.
Daisy - 1-Sep-16 @ 4:36 PM
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