Monday, 2 July 2012

Sewage pipes - The importance of ownership

The Water Act 2003 which came into effect in October 2010 has left certain home owners worse off and continues to pass under the radar of may lawyers who act for those buying homes.

Up until the introduction of this new law, financial responsibility for the maintenance and repair of   the drainage pipes which connects your home to the mains sewer rested squarely with you.  If anything went wrong with the drains you and the others who share the use of the pipes would be required to meet the costs of repair.   Often this meant having to find several thousand of pounds.

The good news is that since October this responsibility has not passed to the local water authority meaning that if your house does not connect directly to the mains sewer but is part of a network connecting more than one house then there is longer any liability resting with you.   If any thing goes wrong the water authority must sort it.

Beware however as any stretch of pipe through which sewage from only your property flows will remain your sole responsibility.  You need to ask your solicitor to check this and to make sure you have a right to make use of the pipe and that if it passes through adjoining land that you have a right to access that land to carry our repairs etc.  Certain water and sewage authorities offer insurance to address and issues and this can cost as little as £5 per annum.

The downside of this is that we will all be paying more for our sewerage charges even if our drains are not automatically adopted because we connect direct to the mains.    There may also be problems if we are looking to build over a drain, for example the building of a conservatory or an extension.  If we have lost ownership then we will need to obtain the consent of the water authority.   If there is already a building situated over a pipe which is now owned by the water authority and the water authority has to gain access to carry our repairs you will if you can show that the pipe was owned by you before October claim compensation for the damage caused.

So the message is ask your solicitor if the property is connected through a network of pipes or connects direct to the mains sewer. If  it connects direct you will be responsible for the cost of repair and maintenance and you need to make sure  you find out the route of the drain and that you have a legal right of access to it.  

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

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