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Who Is Responsible When Drainage Issues Occur?

Block sewer services from 1st Call Drain Clearance & Technical Services

When you have a problem with your drains, it’s something you want to get sorted as quickly as possible. After all, if there’s a blockage, then you may be unable to get rid of water from your kitchen and/or bathroom, while you might also start to get the foul smells of stagnant water and worse backing up into your home.

But because most of our drain systems are underground, it may not always be immediately obvious where the problem lies. And even if you can identify that, it may not be clear exactly who is responsible for getting the problem sorted. All our drains feed into one single sewerage system, so is it our problem, is it our neighbours’ problem or is it one for the local water authority? And isn’t that what we pay our water rates for anyway?

This month, we’re taking a look at this common problem and explaining who is responsible for the different issues likely to occur to the drainage in and around your property.

Drains and sewers

Perhaps the first step when looking at this subject is to explain the difference between drains and sewers. We actually have two types of drains – the visible ones we can see that take water off your property, and lateral drains, which are underground and which take waste water away from your property and into the sewers. 

The sewers, on the other hand, collect waste water from all properties and take it to a treatment centre. If there’s a problem with the sewers, it will always be the responsibility of the water authority, unless your property uses a private sewerage system such as a septic tank or a cesspool. In that case, it will be either your responsibility to maintain them if you’re the property owner or the responsibility of the landlord if you’re a tenant.

Private drains

These are the drains that are exclusively for your use and that are located within the boundaries of your property. If there’s any kind of issue with these, then it’s nearly always going to be your responsibility to get it sorted. 

This may not necessarily be the case if you’re in a terraced or semi-detached house – see the section on lateral drains below for more information on this.

Lateral drains

Because lateral drains are usually located outside of your property’s boundary and take water from multiple properties, these are also known as shared drains and become the responsibility of the water authority when there’s a problem with them.

As previously mentioned, you may have lateral drains within your property boundary if you live in a terraced or semi-detached house. These may run across the back of multiple properties and therefore be shared with your neighbours. In this case, any issues usually become the responsibility of the water authority.

If you’re not sure which drains in your property are shared and which are your own responsibility, your water authority should be able to tell you. You could also find this kind of information on your property deeds.

If you’re in a flat, you shouldn’t have any responsibilities for external drains at all, unless you’re also the freeholder.


For the best advice on all problems with drains, and for the very best help in getting them sorted, contact the team at 1st Call Drain Clearance & Technical Services today. We’re experts in everything from removing blockages to dealing with collapsed drains, using the very latest technology to identify and deal with any issues.

Problems with your drains?

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