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Property drainage

Blocked drain or sewer? What are you responsible for on your property? What are the water utilities responsible for?

Property owner responsibilities

Which drains are yours to maintain?

Drains (pipes) on your property if you are the landowner, are your responsibility. A drain is the property owner's responsibility until it connects to either someone else's drain or a public sewer. 

Image from Severn Trent Water

Nearly every property has its own private drains, and the property owner is responsible for maintaining and repairing them.  If a blockage occurs in the private drain within your property boundary, you will still be responsible for clearing it. This includes:

  • above ground' drain pipes, such as rain gutters and soil pipes
  • private sewers and lateral drains that are not connected to the public sewer network (and drain to a river, pond, septic tank or private treatment facilities)
  • drains and sewers located within a single site that contains a number of individual properties that are either in common ownership or have common drainage arrangements.
  • owners of these properties are jointly responsible for their drains, these responsibilities are often dealt with by a management company, such sites include:
    • residential buildings with multiple flats or apartments
    • caravans or park home sites
    • offices or commercial buildings
    • industrial, business or retail parks
    • schools or university campuses
    • hospitals or similar medical facilities
    • airports and railway stations

If your drains are blocked you need to call a plumber or drainage engineer, or water utility, who will charge you for clearing your drain. Specific insurance is available for drains within the property boundary.

Buying a house - make sure you find out what the drainage arrangements are

It is the responsibility of the property owner to be aware of the location of and maintain the drainage. The council do not hold information on individual private property drainage.

The council recommends anyone purchasing a house ask the current landowner for copies of the property drainage arrangements and ensure it is functioning and appropriately designed and constructed before purchase. 

Paving your front garden - make sure it is permeable

There is a legal requirement to ensure that front gardens remain permeable where people wish to use them as driveways so they don't contribute to flooding. Guidance on the permeable surfacing of front gardens has been published by government.  Residents should ensure that the hard surfacing of front gardens of over five square metres or more remains permeable or drains to an appropriate permeable area, or the work would require planning permission. This is because there is increasing demand on the capacity of surface water sewers and often a situation where the water company will not increase the capacity of the sewer. Please use the Paving front gardens guidance [206kb] produced by the council on how to comply.

Residents can take action to reduce the likelihood of flooding affecting them and their community by putting in water butts or rainwater harvesting in order to control surface water and reuse it on the their property.

Council owned property

If you are within a council owned single property or block, and the issue is within the property boundary, or if you believe a council property is having an impact on yourself please report it.

If there is a blocked or damaged drain from someone else's property which is causing you a nuisance and the owner or occupier is not taking responsibility for this, the council can require the owner or occupier to arrange for the blockage to be cleared at their expense.

Report it

Please state the following when reporting online:

  • exact location of the property where the blockage or damage is
  • the name of the property owner
  • the affect of what it is having on you

Responsibilities of the water utility company

Your local water and sewerage company (usually the water utility) is responsible for the maintenance and repairs to:

  • private sewers that you share with another property owner
  • the section of your property's drainpipe that lies outside the property boundary

These sewers are recorded on a map of public sewers held by the sewerage undertaker. You can contact them for a copy of those sewers near your property.

There are also public surface water sewers. These drainage pipes cater for rainwater running off the surface of areas of hard standing and other generally impermeable areas such as car parks, industrial land and public amenity areas. Responsibility for them is vested in the sewerage undertaker. Further information on road drainage and gullies.

Thames Water

Affinity Water

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 01 Sep 2017 at 10:27