Inevitably, if you’re having a blocked drain cleared by a professional plumber, it’s going to cost money. Whilst most people are pretty clear that if there’s a blockage in pipework on their property, they’re going to have to stump up the cash to get it cleared, what is less clear is that sometimes blockages that occur beyond your property’s boundary are also your responsibility! Here we take a look at when you’re liable to foot the bill, and when it’s the local authority’s or someone else’s problem.
Is the blockage in a sewer drain or a storm drain?
There are two drainage networks that remove waste water from your property. The first is the sewage system. That’s the pipe network into which waste water from your sinks, baths, toilets and washing machine goes. The second way in which water is removed from your property is through the storm water system. This is the system through which rainwater (run off) from gutters, driveways and similar runs into the storm water drainage system. These systems have different regulations when it comes to where liability for blockage removal occurs.
Blockages in sewage pipes
As you might expect, when a blockage occurs in a sewage pipe, if it’s your side of “the point” then it’s your responsibility. “The point” is the point at which your sewage pipe joins the water (or sewage) company’s branch drain. Blockages “beyond” the point are the responsibility of the water or sewage company. Note that “the point” may be beyond the boundary of your property. If this is the case, you are still responsible for the pipework between your property and “the point” even if it’s located outside your boundary.
Blockages in storm water pipes
Homeowners are responsible for clearing any blockages in drain pipes, down pipes, guttering and similar until the pipes connect with the council’s barrel drain. This may be at a surprising distance from the property. Your local council will be able to tell you where the “legal point of discharge” of storm water is from your property.
Note that if work needs to be conducted outside your property, the plumber may need to put a number of additional safeguards in place whilst work takes place. If the blockage is located under a road or pavement, a council permit may be needed before the work takes place, particularly if traffic is going to have to be diverted whilst the work is completed.
Remember that, by law, a plumber can’t remove a blockage at your request unless the blockage is located in pipes that are your responsibility. If it becomes clear that a blockage isn’t on your section of pipe, you’ll need to inform the relevant company so that removal can be instigated by them.