There’s a problem with your drain and it needs fixing. But, before you call in the drainage experts, are you sure it’s your responsibility? Who is responsible for drainage problems?

First, you need to distinguish where the issue is. Whether the problem is with a drain or sewer pipe will affect who’s responsible. Look out for the signs to help identify the location of the issue.

Signs of a blocked drain:

  • A bad smell coming from your drains
  • Gurgling noises
  • Slow draining water

If just the one drain is affected, the blockage will be local to that drain. In some cases, you can fix minor drain blockages yourself. But, for more serious blockages, you will need to call a drainage professional.


Signs of a blocked sewer pipe:

sewer pipe

  • Foul smell
  • Gurgling, hissing or whistling noises
  • Water backing up that is dark in colour and smells bad
  • All drains are slow moving
  • Drains stop altogether

When there is a sewer pipe blockage, you’ll notice that toilets are generally the first fixtures affected. When flushing, it may take a few seconds longer for the water to drain away. 

It’s important to note that if water is backing up and it is darker in colour, you should take care when cleaning and wear protective gear, as this may contain raw sewage which is hazardous to health.

A sewer pipe sends all the waste water away from a property. If a sewer pipe is clogged, all the drains in the property will be affected, not just one. They are buried deep underground, making them hard to reach. To fix a damaged or clogged sewer pipe, specialist equipment and expertise is needed. 

Common causes of sewer pipe blockages include:

  • Shifting soil
  • Tree roots
  • Corrosion
  • Damaged pipe joints
  • Build up of debris (oil, fat, food, wipes, sanitary towels, etc.)

Now that you have identified whether the problem is with a drain or sewer pipe, you can assess whether it’s your responsibility to fix. 


If it’s a sewer problem…

blocked sewer pipe

Most sewers are publicly owned. That means they are the responsibility of your local water or sewerage company. If something goes wrong, they will be called in to fix the problem. If you suspect your drainage problem is being caused by a faulty or clogged sewer pipe, call your local sewerage company, and they should come out to fix it. You should also turn off your water to stop any waste water coming into your property and wait until the issue is fixed.

Some sewer pipes are privately owned or unadopted. In this case, you may actually be the one responsible for fixing any issues. You can request that your water or sewerage company takes over responsibility for a private sewer. Before doing so, they may require that the sewer pipe meets certain minimum standards and that it benefits the sewerage system as a whole. If they refuse to take ownership, you can appeal to OFWAT.

If the private sewer pipe is jointly owned by multiple properties, everyone responsible for it must be in agreement over transferring responsibility to the sewerage company.

Often this occurs on sites with several properties, such as caravan parks or blocks of flats. If you own one of the properties served by the sewer, you are jointly responsible along with the other property owners. If you own the site as a whole, it is your responsibility alone.

If you aren’t sure whether the sewer that serves your property is public or privately owned, you can check with your local sewerage company, your local authority or the property deeds.


If it’s a drain problem…

Simply put, if a drain is located inside the boundaries of your property, you are responsible for maintaining and repairing it. 

Lateral drains may be found outside of your property boundary, carrying waste water from the property to the sewer. These will likely be dealt with by your sewerage company. In some cases, lateral drains may run underneath your property, if they are shared with your neighbours.

You may think if it’s your drain, then it’s up to you whether or not to get it fixed in a timely manner. In fact, your local authority environmental health department can order you to carry out drain maintenance, repairs or replacement. And, if you don’t do it within a reasonable timeframe, they might just do the work and charge you for it later.


A note for landlords 

If you are a landlord renting out a property, it is your responsibility under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to maintain drainage, pipes and other areas of plumbing. If the blockage is minor, it can most likely be resolved by the tenant. However, if it is a bigger problem, the landlord should have it taken care of.


For expert drain unblocking services in Bristol and the South West, contact Total Drainage Services today. Our emergency drainage experts are available 24/7. Call us for drain clearance and other drain services, such as drain resin lining and CCTV drain surveys today. We carry out both domestic and commercial drainage works. Get in touch for a free quote.