The Water Industry (Schemes for Adoption of Private Sewers) Regulations 2011 came into force on 1 July 2011.
Under the Regulations, statutory sewerage and water undertakers take ownership of all private sewers and lateral drains that are connected to the public sewerage system. A lateral drain is the part of a drain that serves a single property and which is outside of the property boundary.
The transfer of ownership will take place on 1 October 2011 – provided there are no appeals by homeowners – and will apply to residential and commercial properties. From this date, water and sewerage undertakers will be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of such sewers and drains. Private drains that serve individual properties and which are situated within a property’s boundary will remain the responsibility of the property owner. Property owners will continue to be responsible for connections that do not drain into the public drainage network (e.g. systems that drain into private treatment facilities or to septic tanks are excluded.)
The transfer will, in the main, benefit property owners, as it should remove the possibility of a property owner being asked to pay for the repair of pipework. However, the sewerage element of water bills will probably increase to reflect the increase in the amount of pipework that the water companies will be responsible for maintaining from 1 October. Also, there are other consequences of the transfer of ownership: water companies will have a right of access to any sewers or lateral drains situated on a private property, and homeowners may find it more difficult to build on top of sewers and lateral drains.
All property owners must consider whether the transfer of their private sewer system is detrimental to them. If an owner wants to appeal to Ofwat, he or she must do so within two months of receiving the transfer notice or of it being published (whichever is later.)