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Understanding Shared Drainage Responsibility in the UK


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When it comes to drains and sewers there is a great deal of difficulty in understanding where the responsibility for blocked drains or other issues lies. There are several types of sewers, which complicates this matter somewhat. Public sewers tend to be the responsibility of the local water authority whereas private sewers are usually the responsibility of the relevant property owner.

However, it can be confusing as drainage is an interconnected system, and local authorities or water companies may have some responsibility even when you are a homeowner – so long as they are on the boundary of your property. In any case, it is imperative to fix any problems in water pipes and drainage systems as soon as possible to avoid damage from leaks, flooding and water contamination.

Our services lead us to deliver many drain maintenance services, including drain repairs and drain unblocking – so we have relevant experience and can share our knowledge with you, and help to determine where shared drainage responsibility may lie in your situation. You can contact us today for a free and personalised quote on your drain issues if you have a problem.

Who is Responsible For a Shared Drain?

If you have a problem with your drains the first thing to determine is what your position, namely whether you are the current occupier and whether you are the property owner. The responsibilities for property owners are much different than those of private tenants. The type of building may also influence who is responsible, but this depends on the location of the problem.

The following are some scenarios where responsibility for drainage can fall on different parties:

What Happens With Property Owners?

If you own a property then you are largely responsible for your own drains, particularly internal drains. However, in many properties such as flats and semi-detached or terraced housing, there is usually a combination of a shared and private drainage system – which can make things more confusing.

Property owners of certain buildings will have different responsibilities. The responsibilities break down as follows:

  • Shared flats: Blocks of flats typically use a shared drainage system for better efficiency and ease of maintenance. Flats normally have a management company to deal with issues that occur outside of flats, but it will be the responsibility of the owner if there are internal problems with kitchen or bathroom drains within the flat itself.
  • Semi-detached and terraced houses: In buildings that are built close together you are only responsible for the drains within your property. The shared lateral drains are the responsibility of the local water authority and you are only responsible for any sections of the drain that are private, unshared and within your property boundary.
  • Detached houses and outbuildings: Owners of freestanding detached houses or outbuildings with drainage will typically have sole responsibility for the drainage issues on their premises. However, if a problem occurs outside the boundary of your property, then it is the responsibility of the local water authority.

The overall point to be aware of is that as an owner of a property you are usually only responsible for the drains that are present on your property. In the UK current property laws mean that external drains on the boundary of any type of property are also the responsibility of the local water authority.

What Does this Mean for Private Tenants?

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A landlord is obliged to fix issues or liaise with water authorities. Private tenants will have a better position when it comes to responsibility for their shared drains. Almost every private tenant will be able to pass on any repair or maintenance costs to their landlord, which is a big benefit for people who are not property owners. 

For renters, the responsibility of drainage that is unshared is also the responsibility of the landlord. The landlord also bears the costs of unblocking drains within privately rented properties, but if the cause is due to negligence a landlord may recoup costs by deducting from your security deposit.

Shared Drainage Responsibility Explained

Determining who is responsible for a water pipe or drain can be very complex, particularly as drainage systems are so interconnected and reliant on a network. In all cases, a property owner is only responsible for the drains within their property.

Private tenants have different protections. Landlords have the same responsibilities as owner-occupiers, depending on the property type. 
If you have a shared drain you are responsible for and require any of our services please feel free contact us.