Blocked sewer drains: Who is responsible?

It’s probably not something you think about very often, but if you’re a homeowner with a property connected to the public sewer network, you have to pay for the privilege of using it. You are also responsible for anything that enters the wastewater network from your property, although responsibility for the network itself is usually split between several local bodies. When dealing with blocked sewer drains, who is responsible for resolving the problem will depend on these factors, which we will explain in more detail below.

Your water and sewerage company (WaSC), the UK’s Highways Agency and your local authority share responsibility for the public sewer systems in your area, and you pay for this sewer system through water rates and via taxes to the government. If you are unsure, you can find out your local WaSC by searching at Water UK. However, if you live in a private residence that is connected to the public sewers, some of the pipes that form this connection will be your personal responsibility and you may also need to pay to repair or maintain them.

For this reason, the stakeholder who is deemed to be responsible for blocked sewer drains depends on factors such as where pipes are located, who owns the land under which they run, and which properties they serve. Thankfully, regulations enacted in 2011 made it much easier to ascertain who is responsible for which part of the drains. Homeowners are responsible only for private drains within their property boundaries, and not for shared or public sewers.

With that said, if the cause of a blockage is found to be a result of a problem with your drains – for example, if foul and surface water drains have been connected incorrectly, or you have disposed of items down your drain that have caused a blockage – you might still be liable, so it is best to adopt positive habits when it comes to caring for your drains and avoid problems arising.

What should I do if a drain is blocked?

If you become aware that a sewer drain servicing your property is blocked, you should contact your WaSC and report the blockage. This applies even in cases where you are unsure whether the blockage is within the private drain that is your responsibility, or within the public sewer or lateral drain. The WaSC will be able to survey the sewers and drains to determine the source of the problem, and advise you of whether or not it is your responsibility to remove the blockage.

Under the Water Industry (Schemes for Adoption of Private Sewers) Regulations 2011, homeowners have the authority to commission surveys or work to remove blockages from private drains but not public ones, meaning that if you are unsure, it is the safest option to contact your WaSC. If you do intend to commission work to clear the blockage, you will usually need the WaSC’s permission and guidance on how to proceed anyway, so it is advisable to contact them in the first instance.

How can I prevent blocked drains?
Typically, the actions of careless homeowners are far more likely to block private drains than they are to block public sewers, but learning how to adopt good habits and take care of your drains can avoid the risk of these problems arising in either case.

One of the most important things to consider is how you dispose of fat, oil and grease (FOG) and food scraps. These substances are easy to pour down the sink in their hot, liquid form, but they will quickly cool and solidify in your pipes. FOG can combine with small, solid food scraps and other products that are inappropriately poured or flushed down drains – such as wet wipes, sanitary products and other items – to create serious and stubborn blockages.

Even if these items do not block your pipes, they can congeal in the sewers and create huge fatbergs that are capable of blocking even large sewer pipes. Lanes has lots of experience tackling fatbergs, which solidify and need to be broken up by water jets before they can be removed. The improper disposal of FOG that causes fatbergs is also responsible for a huge percentage of floods throughout the UK.

How can Lanes help?

At Lanes, our experience in tackling fatbergs and other sewer blockages means that we can tackle any challenge, whether large or small. If you are unsure about the nature or location of a blockage, we can provide CCTV drain surveys and other services to help.

We can also tackle blockages of all sizes, including fatbergs and in-growing roots, with our state-of-the-art jet vacuumation services, and send waste to an Environment Agency-licensed waste collector to prevent it from causing further problems in the system.

To arrange a CCTV drain survey to inspect a blockage, or to have a blockage removed from private drains, call Lanes Drainage Services UK on 0800 526 488, or use our online enquiry form and we will call you back.

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