If an example was needed for out of sight out of mind drainage systems should top the list! Most people never give much thought to what happens underneath their property, that’s until an issue arises.

However, it’s good to know that if a problem does occur you know exactly what you’re responsible for. Especially as it’s not as clear-cut as you might think.

What’s the difference between drains and sewers?

Drains are pipelines that serve a single property. They dispose of waste into the public sewage system. Whereas a sewer is a system that connects the drains of several properties. The sewers serve more than one property.

The difference between a public sewer and a private sewer…

A public sewer is the responsibility of the water company for the local area. On the other hand a private sewer was the responsibility of the property owner or owners the sewer served.

What exactly are householders responsible for?

In 2011 there was a change in legislation. Before the update, pretty much everything within your property boundary was your responsibility. Now, thanks to the Private Drains and Sewers Act, property owners are responsible for a little less than before. This relieves property owners of the risk of paying thousands for a repair that potentially wasn’t their fault. Since the act responsibility for private sewers transferred to the water company for the local area.

The legislation also includes… 

The great news is the act doesn’t stop at private sewers. It also covers drains that fall outside your property boundary. These are otherwise known as lateral drains.

What isn’t included?

Drains and sewers that are not connected to a public sewage system. They are not included and remain the responsibility of the property owner. For example, these include cesspits, septic tanks, and drainage fields.

Council powers…

Private drains are your responsibility but there are instances where the council’s environmental health department can order you to improve or replace the drain. To find out whether private drains or any other wastewater system needs to be repaired the council have the powers to inspect if they believe your property is causing a health hazard or causing a nuisance.

If environmental health has decided your drains are an issue. Reasons can include the department believing the pipe isn’t in good repair or the issue is disrupting others in the area. They may issue a notice telling you to remove the blockage within 48 hours.

What about water companies?

Water companies, such as the local supplier for Hertfordshire, Affinity Water, do not have the power to order you to repair or replace your drains.

The main thing to take away is… Drains within your property boundary are your responsibility.

Where the responsibility for drainage and sewage systems lie may be more complicated. Especially since the change in legislation, but remember, it’s a good thing. Yes, the change is almost a decade old but it’s never too late to learn exactly what you need to do… and sometimes what you don’t. Now you know that there is a little less onus on householders surely this a small weight lifted off your shoulders? Then again, drains still might remain out of sight out of mind.

At Origin Drainage and Plumbing, our team of experts are experienced, professionally trained, and fully insured to perform plumbing and drainage-related works. We unblock and repair your drains without a problem whilst also offering our preventative drain maintenance, preventing an issue before it happens.

So, if you have an issue with your drains and need our help, get in touch today by giving us a call on 01727 220 396, emailing us at info@origindrainageandplumbing.co.uk, or by clicking here to reach our contact page.