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Ownership of Sewers & Drains...

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Property owner responsibilities and ownership of sewers and drains

From the 1 October 2011 the majority of private sewer and lateral drain ownership was transferred to water and sewage companies. This change will benefit most home owners as the responsibility for looking after drains is now much clearer and the transfer should reduce high maintenance and repair costs which were previously thought to be unfair. Private sewers are pipes which carry waste from more than one property. Lateral drains are pipes which carry waste from a single property and extend beyond the boundaries of that property.

Not all private sewers will be transferred. The link below to South West Water’s website provides access to 3 short video clips which outline how the changes will affect the responsibility and ownership of sewers and lateral drains of detached, semi detached and terraced properties, as well as flats.

Transfers will occur in many other circumstances concerning commercial property, pumping stations, sewers which cross a railway or are owned by a railway and drainage which is via a highway drain. In these and other circumstances advice should be obtained. Septic tanks and private sewers which discharge to watercourses are unaffected.

These transfers also impact upon a property owner’s plans to build near or over a sewer which is going to be or has been transferred. Approval of plans for a building near or over a sewer which is to be transferred is now required (since 1 October 2011). Likewise approval of plans for a building near or over a sewer which has been transferred needs to be obtained if Building Regulations approval was granted after 1 October 2011.
For further advice relating to any of the issues raised by this article please contact SWLaw’s Property Department. Other useful information can be found on the Environment Agency and South West Water websites.