blocked drain responsibility issues.

21 Aug 2009
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United Kingdom
I own a 1930's house and have been there about 6 months. The main soil and top water drain has recently started to block.There is an inspection man hole less than a meter from our boundary,which then goes to the pavement and road.
I bought some rods and had a go at clearing it.I managed to get 5 metres of rod into the drain and could not get any further.After a lot of pushing and pulling the inspection chamber cleared,only to block again when i tried to flush more water down.
Wrongly or not,i decided it must be well of my boundary so called the local water authority who sent someone to inspect the sewer in the street.Unfortunately i was not there when they turned up,but they called me to say the main sewer was fine and therefore its my problem.Is this normal?
The blockage must be under the pavement,and without doubt not on my property.
A bloke 'down the pub' told me that you are responsible for anything from the main sewer connection back to your property.Is this true?
I'd like to get the problem fixed for good but need to know about responsibility first.
The previous owner had problems too,and built the inspection hatch in the pics.
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a pic of the drain empty showing the pipes would be handy . Suspect there is an "interceptor" there --they are..always causing problems :evil:
If the previous owner had the chamber built then I'd doubt there's an interceptor in there, I cant see anyone fitting one of them if they've broken into an existing pipe. Normally they get removed! It is rather a funny looking chamber though, cant quite tell where the cover sits! I assume the blockwork isnt used below ground, should be engineering bricks or concrete sections for a manhole.

Need to know a bit more about who uses the sewer at this point though, if its solely for your property than the guy from the pub is right, its your problem until it joins the main under the road. However, if its shared it depends on the age of the houses. Post October 1936 its a joint responsibility between all properties concerned, before October 1936, any shared sewer laid prior to that date is the Water Boards responsibility.

If it is solely to serve your property then the Water Board whilst responsible for the main, are not obliged to do anything with a private sewer, although may offer a chargeable service to householders. I think the pipe either needs clearing or pumping out, then a CCTV survey done to assess the problem. Should the pipe have collapsed then it needs to be excavated and repaired. Water Board will have a list of approved contractors, i'd suggest looking at these as works in the highway gets complicated.... Worth checking your house insurance too as could get expensive.....
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Indeed, expensive :idea: @ my last house I had an option of getting away from a problematic private sewer line . I got a Estimate from contractors to dig and install 1 manhole and connection to main sewer ( in another road- we were on a corner) Min. £6k and double plus :eek: if the excavation had to be more than 2 meters deep in the road
if the drain serves any other property and they were built prior to 1937 then it should be the local water authority responsibility from the point the other property connects or "derives benefit" quote ex section 24 public sewer (think 1936 public health act). if its not shared with any other property then you are responsible upto your connection to the main sewer regardless of where that is, ie under a main road or neighbours property.
if the drain blocks from the chamber down to the main sewer id recommend a cctv camera survey. dont be conned by private drainage companies though, if you have buildings insurance they should cover the initial inspection without charging your excess. if the damage is covered they will arrange for the repair no matter where it is, obvioulsy less your policy excess.
HI, i don't share with next door, but when i had a problem i called out the water company, who told me because my property was pre 1937 it was there duty to maintain from my manhole to their sewer and kind of sorted the problem...i say this as once a year i have problems.
HI, i don't share with next door, but when i had a problem i called out the water company, who told me because my property was pre 1937 it was there duty to maintain from my manhole to their sewer and kind of sorted the problem...i say this as once a year i have problems.

Correct. Nearly all drains built before October 1937 were adopted under the Public Health Act 1936. It matters not if they serve one property or ten. The situation changes for post Oct 37.

Your key question therefore is; was your property built before or after Oct 1937?
just to clarify the drain must serve MORE than one property of seperate ownership in 1937 to be classed as a public sewer and therefore the responsibility of the local water authority. If the drain at the point of the problem only serves one property then it is the responsibility of the property owner regardless of the age of the property or the drain. if the properties were owned by the same person or group ie row of cottages ownerd by a church after 1937 then it is the responsibility of the current owners, however if the properties were sold prior to 1937 then they should be the responsibility of the local water authority.

I recommend that you contact your building insurers, they should appoint a specialist claims handling company with drainage experts how will best advise you the way forward as many local water authorities take some persuading to accept responsibility or they can arrange for repairs is covered under the policy. ( I should know i worked for a drainage consultancy that handled claims for the leading uk insurers)

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