Following the introduction of the Water Industry (Schemes for Adoption of Private Sewers) Regulations 2011 on 1st July 2011, the ownership of virtually all private drains and sewers will be transferred to local water companies on 1st October 2011. This applies to all lateral drains and private sewers in England & Wales which were connected to the public sewerage system on 1st July 2011. Private sewers are sewers or drains which drain more than one property into the public sewerage system. Lateral drains are pipes serving a single property but which extend beyond the property boundary. All such drains and sewers will be adopted regardless of condition.
By now, property owners should have received a notice from the local water company advising of the proposed adoption. The notice should have provided details of a right to appeal where such owners or affected parties wish to retain ownership of the private sewers or drains. Any appeal must be made within 2 months of receipt of notice and lodged by 30th September at the latest.
The benefits of such adoption
Adoption by the water companies of the private drains and sewers is expected to greatly benefit the current owners of such drains and sewers, as it is accepted that many owners are not aware that their drains are connected to a private sewer and/or are not aware of where responsibility lies for the upkeep and maintenance of the same. Main sewers which are situated underneath roads are usually adopted but the drains connecting properties to these main sewers are often private. As a result, householders are often not aware that they are responsible for the repair and maintenance of these drains until something goes wrong, resulting in substantial repair bills. There is the added problem of identifying where responsibility lies and obtaining the appropriate contributions from other owners, who also may not be aware of their obligations.
Adoption will also allow the water companies to integrate the private drains and sewers into the public system and ensure that a proper repair and maintenance programme is implemented. This should result in a significant reduction in the number of leaks and flooding caused by the lack of such maintenance and repair.
However, adoption of the private drains and sewers will come at a price; water companies are not expected to increase their prices immediately but, given that up to 50% of properties in England and Wales are connected to private sewers, there is no doubt that water bills will rise progressively over the next few years. In addition, householders should be aware that the transfer to public ownership of private drains and sewers will mean that water companies will have the right to access any sewers or drains. Adoption could also make it difficult, if not impossible, for a property owner to build on top of such drains or sewers without consent from the water company.
If you require any further information about the issues raised in this article please contact Lynne Horay (email@example.com), or any other member of Goodman Derrick LLP's Real Estate Team on 0207 404 0606.
This guide is for general information and interest only and should not be relied upon as providing specific legal advice.
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