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/ 03 May 2011

Private sewers to transfer to water companies

The Government has announced plans to change the existing ownership of privately owned sewers and lateral drains to the water companies. Currently over 10 million households in the UK own sewers that run beyond the boundaries of their own property. The cost of maintenance and repair of these sewers rests with the homeowner, but often they may be unaware of this until a problem arises. There can also be difficulties for homeowners in establishing ownership of, and responsibility for, such sewers, and there can be unwillingness on the part of some homeowners to accept this responsibility, especially after changes in home ownership.


The proposed change in the law will mean that in October 2011 all privately owned sewers and lateral drains will automatically transfer into the ownership of water and sewerage companies. These companies will then have the responsibility to maintain and repair the network of drains and sewers beyond property boundaries if something goes wrong.

The regulations that will make the transfer possible have been drafted and are scheduled to go before Parliament for approval in early 2011. Property owners will be given notice by local water companies before the transfer, and should owners not want their drain to transfer, there will be an appeals procedure for them to follow.

The small downside for consumers is that the sewerage element of water bills will rise to cover the cost of the transfer. At the moment the cost of maintaining public sewers is spread across all customers, but some households also have to pay for the maintenance and repair of private drains as well. The transfer will mean the cost is spread more fairly, clarity will be brought to a confusing issue and the burden of maintenance and repair will be lifted away from homeowners.

More information is available at the Water UK website and local water and sewerage company websites.

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