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Problems With Drains: Who is Responsible for What?

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 29 Aug 2021 | 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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Next doorhad issue with blocked drain. There connection was in my grassed backyard. Backyard now is damaged. Can I get compensation
John - 29-Aug-21 @ 8:02 AM
Just bought a townhouse a month ago. Got a sewer backup yesterday. Management sent a sewer company which determined that this is a constant problem with the Two houses adjacent. Not a sewage problem. The plumberjust worked on our home in the winter with the previous owners and there was no clogged pipes. The toilets are back to back in the basement of each townhouse. The sewer company has worked 7 times in the house we bought. Today will be an 8th time. And 3 times in the next doors house. Who do we go after to correct the problem and pay the cost
Ang - 23-Jul-21 @ 6:22 PM
Just bought a townhouse a month ago. Got a sewer backup yesterday. Management sent a sewer company which determined that this is a constant problem with the Two houses adjacent. Not a sewage problem. The plumberjust worked on our home in the winter with the previous owners and there was no clogged pipes. The toilets are back to back in the basement of each townhouse. The sewer company has worked 7 times in the house we bought. Today will be an 8th time. And 3 times in the next doors house. Who do we go after to correct the problem and pay the cost of the sewer work that will be done today??Please advise. Thank you Ang
Ang - 23-Jul-21 @ 4:14 PM
I have a flat in a block mine is on the ground floor and it got blocked over the weekend. Contacted the management company I was told it is my responsibility as my flat is the only one that was blocked. The report from the engineer said he had to unlblock the drains that run under the flat. It is a leasehold. Just want to know am I responsible for the drainage of my flat?
Tambu - 21-Jul-21 @ 8:42 AM
We have a Harron home which is 5 years old, one of the drains which is shared, keeps getting filled up with bricks debris, and mud, and keeps blocking, Yorkshire Water have attended on several occasions, and cleared it out of good will, they have now said the can no longer respond, as the shared drain is not yet adopted, and that Harron Homes are responsible, we have contacted Harron Homes, who have said that they only cover the drains for 3 months after build. We have called in an expert, and had cctv in the drains, and one of the outlets have not been capped off, causing all tye debris to fall in. We are really concerned, and don't know what to do, please help.
Many - 6-Jul-21 @ 7:43 PM
Hello .. My neighbours single sewage pipe is perched on my private boundary attached to my wall. Both homes are privately owned and he is refusing to remove it. I have my own separate single sewage pipe and they are no way connected. His sewage brackets have caused wear and tear to my brick work. He isn't co-operating as he said his single sewage pipe has always been there. I've only had the property for 3 years and it is rented and I can't afford to lose my current tenants who are very nice and understanding. I've spoken to United Utilities and I was fobbed off two say that it's a private matter but if he was to block his sewage who is responsible of the cost? i have also spoken to the local council who have said to refer back to the local council. I feel like it's going in circles with no answers and I don't want to go down the legal route until I know the facts?? Can someone help with some solid advice please?
Lakh - 24-Jun-21 @ 1:12 PM
I live in a society where six row houses are attached to each other. Society is not formed. I have face problem from last 2 years regarding Drainage line and chember. There are two chembers in my premises and always blocked after 2-3 months frequently. Drain water is stored for 8 to 9 days in my premises. Neighbors not cooperate. This causes due to my one neighbor hide chembers in his premises of common line, separated his drainage line. As he is of short tempered , other neighbors not give attention in this matter. How can I make them all cooperate?
Ashu - 11-May-21 @ 11:03 AM
I have a driveway that slopes which has 2 shared drains on. They are both 7ft deep and have concrete surrounds that are around 4ft in diameter. The problem is that the ground around these have subsided and made my drive dangerous, we have had someone trip on this and twist thier ankle as a result of this already. The previous owners had a 10 year warranty on the house and had it repaired under this multiple times. This warranty has now expired. I have had 2 engineers come out and say they are a seven trnt asset and that thier company is responsible for fixing the poor construction of these drains. Seven trent keep sending to thier waste department who then say its not thier responsibility and then referring me back to seven trent corporate. This has happened 3 times now. They are saying the drains have no faults on (which they don't) so it's not thier problem but the drains should have a foundation around them to support the land around them. I am loosing my teather and don't know what to do next. Any advice? The drain is thier asset but it has caused damage to my property due to its poorly constructed foundations.
Chris - 19-Apr-21 @ 2:51 PM
We live in a block of 4 maisonettes. All are privately owned and are leasehold. Two flats, one above the other, have an ongoing problem with a joint sewer. The water company comes and clears it pronto but one chap said that as the one pipe has subsided, the owners should replace it. Problem: do all 4 naisonettes pay for this? What about the freeholders of the property?
Typhoonlulu - 4-Mar-21 @ 12:41 PM
Hi we recently had a new extension to our house. The builder got a digger in to dig the footings but had to dig out the manhole to resite it further down the garden, he took out the pipe and stuffed the remainder with a bag so the concrete didn’t fill it up then somehow forgot about it until it was time to rejoin it. Now he cannot rejoin it because he cannot find it and there is now concrete footings and a house on top. He approached the neighbour who’s driveway goes over the junction of our sewerage with his sewerage and then runs down his drive, but the neighbour is refusing to let him dig the 1 metre of his drive up to reconnect the sewer pipewith our new sewer pipe. What can we do as at the moment our waste water is just running into a hole in the garden.
Debbie - 2-Mar-21 @ 9:03 PM
Please confirm If I'm in the right not to let the water sewage company cut few trees at the back of my garden so they can enter woth some machine to unblock the drain, leaving my back garden exposed to the main street and devaluing my house, putting my security at risk and no privacy and main reason to buy this house was a secure private garden and they want to cut a chunk that's ridiculous, I will not feel safe in my house, anyone can enter! I also have a feeling my neightbours blocking it on purpose, we share a pipe recently they started harrasing us and twice in one Wem blocked the pipe...
HilaryMathews79 - 21-Feb-21 @ 1:32 PM
We live in a bugalow weare not on mains sewage and have a ses pit in land next to us in front on our neighbours land is the drainage pipes and drainage for run off waterits only our drainage but our neigjbours have put a large rainwater harvester in and the run off which is huge volumes they have put in our drain which is causing back flow and our run off flooding out into garden is this allowed
Sam - 6-Feb-21 @ 7:18 PM
our sewage pipe runds through a communal car par for our neighbours.We have been advised that the pipe is close to the surface and that if it is damaged in any way that it will be our responsibility.If the pipe is damaged by a falling tree, bin lorries driving over it, or retarring of the parking area above it, would this be our responsibility?
colleen - 17-Dec-20 @ 4:39 PM
I live on a shared courtyard. RainWater runs down it through an archway passing over a grid which spans the archway. This has become blocked with dirt etc Who is responsible to clear it
Mo - 11-Dec-20 @ 2:51 PM
I live in a courtyard of 4 homes...and 3 garages. Where the rain water runs down and threw an archway there is a drain full width of arch way and around 5inches in depth. It has become blocked with dirt and grime running into it. Who would be responsible to get it cleared out.
Mo - 11-Dec-20 @ 2:47 PM
Your information about shared drainage is wrong. Since 2011, any part of drainage that is shared is the responsibility of the Water Authority, even if it is in private property, and none of you has to pay. My neighbours' drainage comes across my garden and joins mine before it goes down to the main sewer. They have blocked it three times recently by putting things down it no sane person would, resulting in their sewage across my terrace and path, and previously refused to even share payment for it being unblocked; I found out that it was Welsh Water's responsibility, phoned them, and they were absolutely brilliant - came straight round, unblocked it, cleaned up, established whose fault it was and that there is nothing wrong with the drain, and are sending the neighbours a letter about it. If they carry on doing it (previous pleas not to put ridiculous things down the toilet have been ignored), WW will continue to unblock it but have the power to prosecute. The relief of not having to find the money to pay drains people and not having to deal with these unpleasant neighbours myself is enormous. Please change this page so that people don't continue to pay and have stressful confrontations when they have no need.
Louise - 4-Dec-20 @ 1:28 PM
My neighbor complains blockage. And he said it's from our house. Our water runs down as it should. They checked the man hole on our property, done pressure clean and it was quiet for a month or so. Now he complains again. What should I do?
AJ - 12-Nov-20 @ 11:01 AM
My neighbour has concreted over our shared sewage inspection cover in order to stop me coming into his back garden (he told me himself because he can not come into our back garden!!). Is there anything we or Yorkshire water etc can do. Best regards Nigel and Paula.
nigel51 - 18-Oct-20 @ 2:23 PM
My upstairs neighbour has a redesigned bathroom her WC is located across the room from it's origiinal position. The soil pipe travels along a wall and then turns 90 degrees along another wall to reach the drain pipe. I think there must be three elbows used and I don't think there is much of a run. The drain pipe is shared between us and I have never had any trouble with the drains in thirty years. Three years ago when I was on holiday her WC was backing up and I came home to wet carpets etc. I had to suffer three weeks of water dripping through. Eventually she got the Dynorod people to clear the blockage in her soil pipe in her bathroom. She eventually had the join to our drain pipe lowered from the outside of the building to improve the run. Two weeks ago while I was watching TV I heard this terrible noise coming from my bathroom, I could hear my neighbour using her plunger and then I had this sewage backup flooding over my WC and all over my utensils and carpet etc. I phoned Dynorod right away and they came an hour later. The engineer agreed that this was all due to a blockage upstairs. I paid £180 plus an extra £30 tip for vacuuming up this disgusting mess. I also spent £40 replacing the carpet. The proprietor of the house refused to pay me saying they were not to blame. Can anyone advise me where to go from here both financially and making sure this will not happen again. Oh yes, I tried to claim from my Halifax insurance and got nowhere due to exess' for water ingress and they would not pay for Dynorod either.
Jim - 29-Sep-20 @ 8:19 PM
Hi We live in end of terrace cottage , our external pipe connecting to sewer Keeps blocking every few months , already paid hundreds of £ to unblock it , we suspect there could be a fault/damage with pipework underground , another company is coming tomorrow to put camera down to hopefully establish what causing it. Sewer/water comes up in pipe on our side of the house but as far as I am aware it’s all connected underground , couldn’t this be joint responsibility? We are the ones that are getting angry knocks in the door but we are Not doing anything to block it . Thanks in advance
KC - 7-Sep-20 @ 5:23 PM
Hi, My flat is on the first floor at the rear of a block of flats. My neighbour’s flat is on the first floor at the front. He thinks there was a previous leak from my bathroom water pipe which somehow damaged his bathroom. I don’t see how it’s possible for water from my flat to travel to his, especially as all the water pipes from my bathroom seem to exit to the rear of the building. Also his flat is at least 20 meters from mine. Any suggestions?
Jez - 5-Sep-20 @ 5:45 PM
Our neighbours sewer connects to the main sewer via a pipe under my property, they are the sole user of a short sectionofpipe whic runs from their property to the manhole in our garden .This pipe is damaged under our house. I’m not sure if we are responsible for it asour service have no connection to this section. Any advice please
Gp - 26-Aug-20 @ 9:28 AM
Some of the problems others have mentioned might be helped by checking the title deeds and those of the neighbour for any mention of the drain/sewer. Sometimes there are easements that allow you access to fix a problem or stop a neighbour interfering with a pipe, or require them to maintain it. Others might be helped by knowing that ownership of _shared_ sewers transferred to the water companies a few years ago so they might now be responsible for the pipe and have powers to get it fixed. Some house insurance policies include legal protection and if you have to go to court this may pay for it.
Colin - 8-Aug-20 @ 4:20 PM
We have a french drain the old pot ones coming through are garden but nowt comes out of it both sides but when it rains it comes underneath the wall from nxt door theres no way of getting this problem sorted has the pipes are to low it just keeps filling up its half way up the wall will this damage my property people are saying a stream goes under our houses where do we go from here even if I put a pipe to connect to it still will not go how do I sort this it's a nightmare
Josh - 26-Jul-20 @ 10:56 AM
We are living in Hosakote Bangalore rural our area is lot of problems no body solve our Drienage andplease visit sir it's my kind request
Shastri - 29-Jun-20 @ 5:32 PM
Hello I'm owner terraced house with flat roof. Every second house got drainage to collect water from two roofs. Water from my roof goes to neighbor side drain. On Friday 19/06/2020 water started dropping from ceiling downstairs caused stains on the walls and ceiling also floor panels swollen in one bedroom upstairs and living room downstairs. Put Buckets straight away to catch the water. Went on the roof to see what happens. There was big pond caused by clogged drain on neighbor side. Removed all the leaves to unclog the drainage. After couple hours water stopped leaking. Had running dehumidifier over weekend to take moisture away. Despite we had some more rain over weekend walls seems dry no more leaks. Called roof specialist to check the roof, he said that nothing wrong with mine. Send some emails with photos and videos to the landlord nothing back yet. Phone him is well, but he said that he doesn't know about roof drainage. Found on internet that's owner responsibility to keep the drain clean. I've got home insurance but they not covered leak caused by neighbor's drain blocked. Estimated cost for repairs floors ceilings and walls will be about £500 just for material, who gonna pay for this. Can you help me how I can sort it out.
tom - 22-Jun-20 @ 12:00 PM
naliya bund rehti hae garou py pani aa jata hae nali saffkarny waly eid ky eid ya maheo bad apni marzi sy aaty hae nalyou ky underkachra bhara para hae pani ki koi nakasi nhi nazm kuch nhi karty braey mehbani ap sy request hae khakrobo ki sakhti sy dutti lgaey un ko peesssy mat dy jub tak ky duty ada na kary
fakhar - 20-Jun-20 @ 3:40 PM
I wanted to get some advice, I’ve had my kitchen sink backing up with water when the washing machine is on. Also, In my garden there’s been sewage water coming up between my patio slabs but only when the washing machine is on. I’ve tried 2 drain cleaners now down the kitchen sink (Hasn’t worked) as my landlord said it’s my fault for putting grease and fat down the sink (even though I don’t) we cannot find the manhole in our garden and don’t know if it’s been covered. He’s now wanting to charge me a days work to ‘dig up the garden’ because he said it’s my fault. (Not sure why he wants to dig up the garden, maybe to find the manhole) just wanted to know what are my options?
Abbi - 25-May-20 @ 12:09 PM
My neighbour's drain is blocked and backed up and the stench is unbearable. He rarely goes in his garden, as to it is piled high with rubbish and old furniture etc and he admitted himself in the past that he has an issue accessing it. The drainage is so bad that his whole patio is covered in a foul smelling grey sludge. I saw a rat in his garden last year and reported it to the council but so far nothing has been done. He is a council tenant. I have contacted the council on numerous occasions since and they are aware of the issue but my neighbour has refused them access. Yesterday I saw a rat in my own garden and I am unable to sit on my patio or open the windows or door at the rear of my property due to the smell. I have spoken to the council again and they said they're hands are tied, especially during lockdown etc as they can't force entry. Does anyone know what else I can do please? What are my rights legally? Would Thames water or Environment Health have more power? I am at my wit's end. I'm not sure if there are actually any health implications in regards to his drain but the smell actually makes me feel physically sick. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.
Bonesy - 20-May-20 @ 12:32 AM
Hello i would like to ask my friend lives on a mobilehome park in radcliff on trent he has got blocked drains and sewage comming up in his garden and the next door sewage is all over her garden he has reported it to site manger but know joy 5 people have reported it now and know joy there are alot of old people on site it been like this for threedays now so i need help to how do i report it to now please help he can not wash up because the sink is blocked
Ginger - 8-Mar-20 @ 8:30 PM
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