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Problems With Drains: Who is Responsible for What?

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 1 May 2018 | 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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We purchased our house nearly 8 years ago, which has a biological system for waste (chess pit), which in the entire time we have lived here have never had any problems with and never had to have emptied. About 7 months ago, the old Methodist chapel behind our house was purchased, and the purchasers decided to turn the drainage ditch (which the overflow pipe from our cesspit runs into), into a pond. They then concreted up the end of our drainage pipe. We have contacted our borough council, county council, local councillors, enviromental agency, enviromental health and the middle level drain to see if we can establish who the drainage ditch belongs to, and we just keep getting told that it is illegal for him to block the end of our pipe,but that it isn’t under their duristiction. We can not afford to seek legal advice, but also cannot afford to keep having our biological tank emptied every five to six weeks. Please can you give us some help or advice
Harrassed - 1-May-18 @ 1:53 PM
HC88 - Your Question:
I live in a small block of flats and the top flat above me have complained about a horrible smell coming out of their soil vent pipe that flows from the ground floor flat through mine to theirs internally in all of our en suits. I occasionally get the smell and it can occasionally be in the communal area! Who is responsible? Them or the Management company to have a look?!

Our Response:
Check with the management company or your deeds first of all. If the point of the blockage can be identified,that might indicate who is responsible too.
ProblemNeighbours - 23-Jan-18 @ 3:11 PM
I live in a small block of flats and the top flat above me have complained about a horrible smell coming out of their soil vent pipe that flows from the ground floor flat through mine to theirs internally in all of our en suits. I occasionally get the smell and it can occasionally be in the communal area! Who is responsible? Them or the Management company to have a look?!
HC88 - 20-Jan-18 @ 7:57 PM
Notamused - Your Question:
My house is owned by n Ireland housing executive there is a severe blockage in the drains and when I flush my toilet the faeces and urine and waste is coming up threw my shower it is been drained every couple of days and problem still ongoing should I move out or is someone responsible to put us in temporary accommodation

Our Response:
Check the terms of your tenancy agreement to make sure this is not your responsibility.If not and your landlord has not been willing to do anything about it, you could contact your local environmental health officer. See our guide here for more information
ProblemNeighbours - 5-Jan-18 @ 10:31 AM
My house is owned by n Ireland housing executive there is a severe blockage in the drains and when I flush my toilet the faeces and urine and waste is coming up threw my shower it is been drained every couple of days and problem still ongoing should I move out or is someone responsible to put us in temporary accommodation
Notamused - 2-Jan-18 @ 12:44 PM
We bought this house in 2016 a few months later we found a storm drain running down the side of the house coming from the next doors neighbours all covered up with rubble I might ad,we are not connected to it,the conveyance solicitor said we are within are legal rights to ask them to remove it, we have been all this time trying.at the moment we have a surveyor handling it (Rics)and he has just sent them a letter asking them to remove the pipe.the pipe runs all the way down the path on to our garden at the front of the house.it's coming from there extension.we bought this as a retirement home but it's been nothing but a headache the seller put on the property information form that there were no drains or pipes coming from any other property.Help what can we do
Cockahoop - 29-Dec-17 @ 4:12 PM
My neighbours drain runs under my house to a manhole on a shared pathway.sometimes my neighbours drain gets blocked and needs pressure washing out.if thesection of the pipe is damaged under my house,who is responsible for repair.my drainage is not connected to this pipe but runs into the manhole on the shared pathway separately.
Sam - 27-Dec-17 @ 10:56 PM
Dymphna - Your Question:
Our flats toilets keep getting blocked: we get noises, gurgling, slow running bath/loo then it'll get totally blocked. I'm on the end so it's always me that rings landlord. They cleared main sewer & drain of nappies, wipes & fat (not me!). My neighbour next door & my bathroom drains are joined under the house: she seems to wait till I ring landlord so it looks like it's me causing blockages. Could the problem originate next door? If so, how to prove it? She won't let workmen in! I'm Sick of feeling like everyone.blames me for the constant blockages every few months?

Our Response:
Say something to the landlord about the other tenant. It's up to the landlord to deal with this.
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Dec-17 @ 12:52 PM
Our flats toilets keep getting blocked: we get noises, gurgling, slow running bath/loo then it'll get totally blocked. I'm on the end so it's always me that rings landlord. They cleared main sewer & drain of nappies, wipes & fat (not me!). My neighbour next door & my bathroom drains are joined under the house: she seems to wait till I ring landlord so it looks like it's me causing blockages... Could the problem originate next door? If so, how to prove it? She won't let workmen in! I'm Sick of feeling like everyone.blames me for the constant blockages every few months?
Dymphna - 13-Dec-17 @ 6:47 AM
Mamta - Your Question:
I want a bhopal local environment health officer contact number so that I can register my complain.neighbour not feel any respinsibilty towars sewage problm now what should I do.our sewage now start overflowing.

Our Response:
You can find your local council by entering your postcode here./a> Phone and ask for environmental health.
ProblemNeighbours - 28-Nov-17 @ 3:36 PM
I want a bhopal local environment health officer contact number so that i can register my complain....neighbour not feel any respinsibilty towars sewage problm now what should i do ...our sewage now start overflowing .
Mamta - 28-Nov-17 @ 5:53 AM
Domestic (untreated) waste water is draining onto my side access from neighbour's property (we're lower down the hill). Water then drains inmto my rainwater drain. Experiencing flooding on path (3' x 15') from washing up, dishwasher etc. The water leaves dirty residue and there are occasional foul smells. Area becoming increasingly dangerous - slippy as moss growing despite my brushing / cleaning. From looking it appears that the problem is with a waste pipe as it exits property as their wall wet. The water seems to flood out of this joint, most overflowing onto their path and then ours.I've repeatedly spoken to neighbour, or more often her tenants, to no avail. Seems that they may be doing temporary fixes that subsequently fail. How can I next best proceed. Flloding is daily now. Is council best place to go to? What acts apply? Can I insist on coincil action? Or is only solution soliciors ltter ?
AM - 9-Nov-17 @ 4:07 PM
My landlord has sent me a text saying that the drains have been blocked with wetwipes and cling film?? Ans That it is either me or downstairs flat. He then sent me another text saying that if we don't pay what it cost for him to do then he will evict us I don't see why i should pay for somethingg i havent done . I'm now worried about what is going to happen can he evict me over this ?
Squidface - 26-Oct-17 @ 1:21 PM
Hi I have a slowly run away WC and associated pipework which leads into the sewer We have lifted the manhole which is full and tried to clear is with no joy I have been into the next to properties and lifted there manholes to check if these are clear but these are completely full as well the last house on the run will not let us have access to check if there manhole is full too I have asked them to check there manhole but I am getting no joy Before long all the adjacent properties will have foul entering there house We're do I go from here as I am getting no joy from these owner ?
Smiler - 29-Jun-17 @ 5:21 PM
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
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