Blocked Drain Responsibility Explained

Our homes are connected to systems of drains and sewers, which function to carry away wastewater. If these pipes become blocked, we need to take steps to fix the issue and prevent ongoing problems. On encountering a blockage, what do you need to do and who is responsible for blocked drains? 

Drains on your property 

Drains within the boundary of your property are considered private drains. If a drain on your property becomes blocked, then it’s your responsibility to unblock it. You can attempt to unblock the drain yourself, or you can call a professional drainage company to do this for you. Taking out insurance is also an option to pay for fixing a private drain. 

Lateral drains and sewers  

Lateral drains are located outside your property, generally underneath the road or pavement. Lateral drains are the pipes which function to carry wastewater away from your home and into a sewer. These are connected to your private drains, yet they are not considered your responsibility. Lateral drains are publicly owned. 

 Sewers function to collect the waste and water from the drains of several different properties. Most sewers are publicly owned; however, there are still some privately owned sewers. If you have a private sewer, you could be liable to fix it, and you will need to contact your local sewerage company to find out. 

When a drain or sewer is outside the boundaries of your property, it is the responsibility of the water company to fix the problem, at no cost to you. If you believe that a blockage has occurred in a lateral drain or sewer, you should call your water company. 

Shared drains

 If you have a drain that is shared with a neighbour, your local water company will be responsible for this drain. You will only be accountable for a private drain on your property that is not shared. For those who live in a block of flats, it is the management company who are liable for any repairs within the property boundary. The water company are again responsible for fixing the lateral drains that service the flats. 

Tenant or Landlord

Generally speaking, if you rent your property, then the landlord will be responsible for all of the maintenance and repairs, including the drains. Minor blockages in sinks or toilets can usually be fixed by the tenants themselves. With the use of plungers or drain cleaners, it should be straightforward to deal with these small incidents of blockage. 

Maintaining your drain

You must adequately maintain any drains that you own; blockages, cracks, or misconnected pipes can damage your drain and the surrounding areas of your home. Dirty water can end up in our rivers if any pipes are incorrectly attached or faulty. The environmental health department can instruct you to carry out maintenance on private drains should they see a problem, but you should try to keep on top of these issues yourself. 

When you are maintaining a private drain, you should look out for signs of minor issues. It’s preferable to spot any problems early before they get worse. You may notice, for instance, deterioration such as leaks, cracks, or eroding pipes. If you have a blockage, you may notice foul smells or that wastewater drains away slowly. 

Private sewers

 If your sewer is private and you own the property, then it is your responsibility to repair any blockages and to make the associated payments. If the private sewer is serving several properties, then all owners will be obligated to pay for the repairs. If you are unsure whether your sewer is public or private, you can check with your local sewerage company to get this information. 

Connect to a public sewer

According to the Water Industry Act 1991, the owner of a private sewer is entitled to have their sewer or drains connected to a public sewer. The owner or occupier of a premises in general, can also apply to connect to a public sewer. If you wish to apply, you can do this via an application form with your local water supplier. Here is the application form for the supplier Thames Water. 

Requesting a company to adopt your sewer

In 2010, the government stated that the majority of private sewers and lateral drains would soon have full ownership by sewerage companies. According to Thames Water, up to 10 million homeowners were previously responsible for private sewers, yet many did not realise this until there was an issue which they had to fix. As a repercussion of this, many private sewers were left in bad condition. These reasons informed the decision to transfer the ownership of private sewers; from individuals to sewerage companies. 

Any lateral drains or private sewers that were connected to a public sewer before 1st July 2011, were transferred in ownership on 1st October 2011. If you still own a lateral drain or sewer, that remained unaffected by this legislation, you can request that your local sewerage company adopt it from you. 

Off-mains drainage

When your property is in a rural location, you will likely have off- mains drainage. This type of drainage is a self-contained system connected to your property, or perhaps shared with your neighbours. There are three types of off-mains drainage; one is a cesspit, which is a holding tank that must be emptied approximately every eight weeks. Another is a septic tank; solid waste is kept in a tank and the liquid waste goes to a drainage field. Thirdly, sewage treatment plans involve compressed air that’s blown into a tank to break down waste. If you have a problem with any of these drainage systems you are responsible for the payments and repairs. 

Further information on blocked drain responsibility 

For further information on water and drainage services, you can look to Ofwat’s website. Ofwat is a water services regulation authority, responsible for the sewerage industry and the water sector. You can also take a look at the Water Industry Act if you would like to read more about water legislation, including the provision of sewerage services. 

A Brief History of London’s Drain Systems

London’s drainage system as we see it today is incredibly different from what it once was. A key part of the water infrastructure that serves the vast majority of Greater London and is operated by Thames Water, the sewage system was once the cause of disease and destruction as human waste was unloaded directly into the river.

Before it was redesigned by respected architect Joseph Balzagette, in the early 19th Century it resulted in 1000s of people across the capital contracting diseases such as cholera as the River Thames acted as an open sewer. An event also known as the Great Stink, the hot weather exacerbated the smell of human waste throughout the city, making it an unbearable place to live – no matter what class you were of.

The contamination of the water alongside proposals made in the early 1700s were some of the reasons as to why the need for it to be redesigned became so prevalent. It was, however, delayed until the influential Metropolitan Board of Works was created in 1856 due to the costs associated with the construction. The costs and proposals to modernise the drainage system, weren’t, however, agreed by parliament until after the horrific Great Stink of 1858.

As gravity resulted in the sewage flowing towards the east, located such as Deptford, Abbey Mills and Chelsea required an additional installation. Pumping stations were created to help provide sufficient flow and to raise water levels.

The Impact of Joseph Bazalgette

As mentioned above, Joseph Bazalegette was an architect who helped to redesign the London drainage system. But he was also the chief engineer in the Metropolitan Board of Works in the mid to late 19th Century and had an incredibly significant impact on the design and effect of the drainage system. Directly improving its appearance, as well as resulting in an improvement in the health of London’s residents, his actions are an important part of London’s history.

Joseph Bazalgette was elected as chief engineer, supervising public works in an extraordinary way across the city. By 1866, London’s drainage system was transformed to include a series of connected sewer networks which was devised by Bazalgette himself. Diverting the water from the underground rivers and sewers to low-level sewers built behind the embankments, before the waste ended up in the Thames Estuary, it was an incredible and drastic change that was much overdue.

In 1870, the Victoria and Albert Embankments were opened. These were designed to replace the Thames shore which was once only tidal mud with the reclaimed and supportive ground. Protecting the low-level sewers, underground railway and service subway, it was a welcome addition that kickstarted an array of other embankments being built – such as the Chelsea Embankment which was completed four years later.

London’s Drain System Today

We no longer have to worry as much about drainage as we once did. The chance of an event such as the Great Stink is, most likely, a thing of the past which won’t happen again. Throughout the 20th Century, major improvements to the drainage system continued to occur which in turn reduced the pollution that began to occur in the North Sea and the Thames Estuary.

Proposals for projects such as the Thames Tideway Scheme is underway to increase the capacity of London’s sewage system. As the population grows, as does the need for improvements to the structure. And this development is just one of the steps needed to keep up with the demand for an efficient and fully-functional sewerage system in the capital.

Now something that we take for granted, it is fascinating to discover the history of the drainage system and how it has transformed over the years thanks to innovative minds such as Joseph Bazalgette.

Blocked Drains London 

Even though blocked drains might not seem as big of a worry in the present day, it is something that still occurs. At Quick Clear Drainage we work on fixing any blocked drain issues that occur throughout the city. Experts in drainage London, we have years of experience with London drains and understand the need to effectively fix the issue as quickly as possible.

As soon as you notice a drainage issue, whether it is within your business or home, get in contact with us and we will be on hand to help. If you have a blocked toilet or sink, we are your first port of call every time. Using our expertise and state-of-the-art technology, we offer a high-quality service that’s affordable and efficient. A trusted company that puts our customers first, we have an array of glowing reviews on Google.

Want to find out more about the drainage services we offer? Give us a call today on 0203 633 3897 or by email on info@quickcleardrainage.co.uk.

Photo by Frank Albrecht on Unsplash.