Many households will have had a letter explaining the changes due to come into force from October this year, when Water Authorities take over shared drains and sewers The ‘shared’ drains effectively become public rather than private.
This means that in the future, should a shared drain or sewer need work, that work will be carried out by the Authority at their expense. Previously, it would have been up to the affected homeowners to arrange repairs and payment between them.
Certain house purchases might have required extra legal documentation to ensure access to and the right to enter land to repair a shared drain. Certainly where work was required on shared facilities, it may have been difficult to get all affected residents to agree to work or pay their share. Hence repair work in the past could easily become a messy and private legal affair, costly for all concerned.
The new adoption rules will do away with all that uncertainty in the future – especially for prospective house purchasers, previously put off by the thought of shared sewers and all the ‘legal’ problems that could have entailed.
One other effect of the changes will be the building of conservatories and extensions which are sited over shared drains or sewers.
Documents suggest that the permission of the drain owners (in this case the local Water Authority) will have to be gained first but how will that work? Will it delay projects and do the Authorities have any mechanism in place for such ‘requests’?.
It sounds like such building work will be extremely limited.
Although it’s unclear, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Authority to compensate for any damage or demolition to access a shared drain, if the structure was built before the 1st October 2011 date. Property experts are warning homeowners to carefully document build and installation dates of extensions and conservatories etc if they believe their home extends over a shared drain or sewer.
Current legislation states you must not build over a public drain or sewer without permission.
The new bureaucracy could provide lengthy delays to such home improvements, especially as there’s little apparent preparation for how such requests, after the 1st October, will be dealt with.
Those installation and building companies that have already tackled projects involving public sewers / drains report that it’s normal for a minimum 3mtr easement distance, and that some have been asked to excavate pipes for visual inspection prior to permission being given.
The double glazing industry is already calling for some form of self-governed members scheme to allow ‘members’ to carry our drain work themselves. Presently, only Water Authority approved contractors can carry out sewer work – expensive and of course you’re project’s timeframe is then at their mercy rather than your own installation company’s.
This story first appeared in our regular weekly homeowner newsletter, dated 11th July 2011. Click here to read the full newsletter.
photo credit: david blackwell