Local Drainage Systems – Your Responsibilities

If you have a problem with the drain that services your home or business, do you know who is responsible for paying to restore the flow to the drainage system?

In 2011 the law changed regarding who is responsible for the different sections of the drainage system that services your home or business.

Prior to this time, the owner of the premises was responsible for the drain system up to and including the connection to the main public sewer (normally located in the public highway), so if there was an issue with your drain at any point between your property and the main sewer it would be your responsibility to pay for. This is not necessarily the case anymore.

This guide should give you a clear understanding of the section of the drainage system that you as a home or business owner are responsible for.

What is the difference between a drain and a sewer?

  • Drain - A pipe that drains waste and water from a property or group of properties that falls within the boundary of the property
  • Sewer - Carries water and waste from a number of properties

As a property owner it is important to know which elements of the sewers and drains near your property are your responsibility and which fall under the care of the local water company.

In a bid to improve sewer maintenance and bring about greater transparency, the Government changed the law and transferred ownership of certain aspects of the sewage system from private property owners to the water companies.

Since October 2011, property owners have only been responsible for waste outlets designated as their own private drains. Anything else – classified as public sewers – falls under the responsibility of the water companies serving the area.

Residential Property

In the case of detached, semi-detached, terraced building or flats / apartments, the owners are only responsible for sections of pipework that are not shared with a neighbour and fall within the property boundary (including any garden or yard space).  If the drainage system is shared or is beyond the boundary of the property, it is the responsibility of the local water company.

Residential Property


The law change has also affected businesses.  The drains that are within the grounds of a business remain the sole responsibility of the property owner (provided they are not shared), and once the drain reaches the site boundary the responsibility is transferred to the water company.

Business or Retail

Schools and Universities

The same applies for school and universities:

School and Universities

 In essence, you are only responsible as a home or business owner if the drain is in your private boundary and it does not serve any other properties.

What are the rules if my business is on a Retail Park?

If your business is on a Retail Park, this is usually slightly different. Although the drains are shared on a Retail Park they are not the responsibility of the water company as they are usually all owned by the landlord of the Retail Park, up to the Retail Park boundary. In this case it is therefore the responsibility of the landlord to have the drains cleared and/or repaired if they fall within the boundary of the Retail Park.

What about septic tanks, private treatment systems and cesspits?

Currently, when such systems are privately owned, their care and maintenance is the sole responsibility of the property owner. If a septic tank or treatment system serves more than one home or business, it is the responsibility of all the buildings it serves.

What should I do if I think I have a drainage problem?

Firstly, you need to find out if the problem is centralised to your own property’s system or if there is an issue with a nearby section of the public sewer. Speak to people in nearby homes / businesses and see if they are experiencing similar problems. If they are, it would suggest that the problem lies with the public sewer system and should therefore be reported to the local water company.  However, if not then it could just be your own property – in which case, you need to get in touch with a reliable drainage specialist.

If there is an issue, it is essential that you get it resolved as soon as possible. For business owners, besides posing health risks for customers and those in the immediate area, untended blockages and other sewage issues can lead to prosecution. Laws state that property owners must have essential maintenance and repair work carried out when necessary.

My property is served by a private pumping station – how am I affected?

In the case of some buildings – particularly more remote properties, or housing developments and business parks – a pumping station serves as a connector to the main sewage system. Private pumping stations were not transferred over to sewerage companies in 2011 – but the Government does have plans to move them over by 2016. Until then, pumping stations are the responsibility of their owners.

Regardless of how individuals and businesses have been affected by the transfer of certain system elements to sewerage companies, good has come from the changes. Now, ownership of each section of drain is clearly defined, which means lengthy disputes over maintenance can easily be avoided and repairs can be made more swiftly.

By calling in reputable drainage specialists, you can ensure that maintenance and repairs will be carried out to the highest standard, and work will comply with current laws and legislation. Using a combination of industry experience and expertise, together with the latest in CCTV technology and other services, professionals can work to solve any drain-related issue.

If you have a commercial drainage system that serves your business and you require investigation, rehabilitation or maintenance work please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on 0845 226 5060.

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