Who Owns Your Drains - Note the full detailed article is available from the link at the bottom of the page
You may be relieved to hear it may not be you. Drains are usually a liability rather than an asset.
From October 1 2011 The Water Industry (Schemes for Adoption of Private Sewers) Statutory Instrument No 1566 2011 made the regional sewerage companies responsible, for all privately owned sewers, lateral drains and surface water sewers which they didn’t already own or already maintain under a s104 Water Industry Act 1991 agreement. All the associated operational gear and manholes etc, transferred at the same time.
Sewers and drains built before 1937 were already public sewers. Installations in the City of London subject to Combined Drainage Orders under the 1848 Sewers Act were also brought into the new arrangements.
Private pumping stations located on transferred piping hand over between October 1 2011 and October 1 2016. Piping upstream of pumping stations should have transferred on October 1 2011.
Private sewers located upstream of pumping stations and the upstream parts of drains and sewers which hadn’t already been transferred, (including those already in the process of earlier transfer proposals and appeals) were included in the regulations as were facilities upstream of piping located on land opted-out of transfer, by a Crown body, or which were owned by a railway company.
s42 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 obliges new sewers and lateral drains which connect to the public sewerage system to be automatically adopted as ‘public’ but the starting date wasn’t set in time for the July 1 2011 transfer decision date, so assets which became transferable after July 1 2011 but before the date upon which s42 applied might have been missed. The government included a ‘supplementary scheme’ to catch them.
Sewer or Drain?
‘Sewers’ are drains shared or used by more than one property, even when all the properties on an estate are owned by the same owner.
A ‘Lateral drains’ is a drain serving a single property but which lies outside that property’s land boundary and extends into the street or over the boundary.
‘Surface water sewers’ are not so easy to define, and were looked at case by case. But the overriding consideration was to relieve private owners of unreasonable maintenance burdens where at some stage the feature concerned discharges into a public sewer. So some almost entirely natural features which retain material that eventually discharges into the public system are included but some man made features are not. In some instances part of the system stays private while the hardware connecting it to the public system transfers to the sewerage company.
But any treatment facility which merely discharges into the public sewerage system is excluded from transfer as are private drains and sewers which do not discharge into the public system at all
So Who’s Drain?
Drains located wholly within the land attached to any single property and serving that property alone remain the responsibility of the property owner or occupier but if (for example) part of a holding is used as residential dwellings but some of the rest of the estate is used for other purposes or for none at all the relevant land (for the purposes of the regulations), might be confined to the area of land occupied by the residential dwellings only.
All housing on residential estates even if all units are owned by the same landlord are transferred but if the residences include blocks of flats, or a mix of houses and flats, each block of flats remains separate. The sewerage companies are not responsible for the drainage inside the block itself and the owners of flats are not expected to be responsible for sewers located under roads and pavements. So again flexibility is encouraged.
The sewerage company would be expected to consider taking responsibility up to the first access point (e.g. a manhole) even if that access point is inside the land boundary. But the company would not usually take responsibility if the manhole was inside the building itself.
Where a single owner manages the drainage of a single site but he grants leases to a number of occupants, such as in Airports, Hospitals, Industrial Estates, Shopping Centres, Caravan Parks, Business Parks, Ports, Railway Stations etc only the lateral drains outside the perimeter of the site transferred. The drainage inside the perimeter remains the responsibility of the site owner.
The decision as to what transferred depended on what the position was on July 1 2011 and that is where it will stay regardless of any future changes to the land boundary.
So the answer to the question ‘who owns your drains’ may not be quite so clear but. If in doubt contact the local sewerage company.