Shared drainage responsibility

Shared Drainage Responsibility
9 March 2022

When you mix private drains and sewers, property boundaries, and the confusion that often sits around water and sewerage companies, you get some big questions.

Usually, these questions are to do with shared drainage responsibility, and knowing whose responsibility it is to care for the sewer system in your home.

This is important, because when things go wrong, you need to know if there are shared pipes making your shared drain something you're jointly responsible for, or if there's something else going on altogether.

But don't worry, today we'll clear up everything by giving you detailed information about the sewer system in your home so you know who is responsible when things go wrong.

Why shared drains matter

If you have shared drains, then usually you won't be solely responsible for any repairs that might be necessary if you have a blocked drain or another problem.

If you have a private drain, then you'll probably have to pay when things go wrong as the property owner. Property owners with private drains and private sewers are usually responsible, since the local water authority isn't in charge (like they are with a public sewer or public drain).

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How to know if you have a shared drain

Knowing if you have shared drains or not is so important, because it can affect who pays.

Your home is connected to sewers through a series of pipes and drains that take the waste from your home into the local sewer system.

Private systems

There are lots of drain setups around the country, some with a private drain system heading to a private sewer (which the homeowner is responsible for since the private sewer is not the responsibility of the local water authority, in this case).

Some private sewer systems might even use a septic tank or sewage treatment plant. Either way, it's the owner's responsibility.

The above might be the case in rented accommodation too, but this is the responsibility of your landlord. It's their job to ensure the sewer serves you in the way it should by dealing with your household waste so the drain carries wastewater away from your property into the sewer system. 

Public systems

In most cases, though, your home will be connected to a public sewer. Your local water authority is responsible for the lateral drains in this system, and any shared drain that leads to the public sewers, but the private drains are the responsibility of the homeowner.

Confused? Don't worry, we'll clear it up below.

What are lateral drains

What are lateral drains?

Lateral drains carry your wastewater away from your property and into the public sewer. A lateral drain can be found on the outside of your property boundary.

If a lateral drain has any problems, like a blocked drain, then it's your local water authority's responsibility. A lateral drain is connected to the public sewer, and so the local water authority is in charge of the maintenance and repair of these drains.

What are shared drains?

A shared drain can also be a lateral drain - where the drains are shared by the public as drains from each individual property on the street lead to a common shared drain.

In this scenario, it's the local water company who is responsible again.

Sometimes, though, the shared drains are not public. When there's a private shared drain, like in a block of flats, it's the responsibility of all the owners in the block to pay for any maintenance or repairs of their shared drains.

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What are public sewers and public drains?

These do not concern the public. This is the responsibility of the sewerage company that is hired by the local authorities to deal with public drains and sewers.

The sewerage company may need to gain access to your property when carrying out maintenance or repairs when a blockage occurs, especially if there is a company maintained manhole on or near your property.

If that's the case, they'll carry out work on your property, but you won't be responsible for it as the private tenant or homeowner.

How do you know what drains are part of your drainage system?

The only way to know for sure is with a drain survey. Drain surveys do come at costs, but they'll be able to tell you everything about your drainage system, from the type of pipe that's used, to the different drains, and, crucially, who is responsible for any costs for repairs and who should pay to maintain the drains.

Since there are so many drains, pipes and sewers hidden from our view, it's important to carry out a survey to determine what you're responsible for.

Common drain setups

To give you some ideas about the sort of drain setups that are typical, we'll include some examples below so you can see what drain setup you most likely have based on your property type.

To know for sure, though, you'll need to pay for a survey or call your local water authority to see if they can tell you.

Detached houses

If your property is detached, then you'll be responsible for the water pipes up to the boundary of your property. This is usually where your house joins the public pavement.

The rest beyond your boundary is the responsibility of the water authorities, as these pipes will lead to the main sewer (public).

Terraced houses or semi-detached houses

If you have a shared drain here that connects to the public sewer, then your local authority deals with this again.

Water companies working for your local council water authority will be responsible for shared drains across the properties, as well as those beyond the properties' boundaries.

You're responsible only for the section between your house and the shared drain.

Terraced houses or semi-detached houses

Flats and apartments

Living in flats means the management company is responsible for those drains up to the boundary of the property, and the local authority after that.

Round-up

In the first instance, contact your local water authority to find out what drain system you have at home and carry out a drain survey to know for sure who is responsible.

If it's private, it's your responsibility, and any shared drains mean you'll need to contact your neighbours as you'll all cover the costs.

If it's public, then the local water authority handles any shared drains, and anything beyond your property boundary. You're only responsible for the system connecting your property to shared drains or the sewer beyond your property.

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