When buying a property in England and Wales, your solicitor will obtain a Drainage and Water Search that will reveal sewer connections and water supply to your property. If your property was built prior to 1 October 1937, it’s likely to have a section 24 sewer nearby. A section 24 sewer is a public sewer, which falls under the care of an appointed company known as a ‘sewerage undertaker’. Sewerage undertakers can differ between areas, but it’s usually the same as the water supplier for the property.


Homeowner responsibility for sewers

Homeowners need to be aware of nearby sewers, especially if they’re within the property boundaries. If you ever decide to install a conservatory, extension or carry out any other significant building works, you’ll need to be very mindful how that might damage the functionality of a nearby sewer. Homeowners who build over or cause damage to section 24 sewers will be responsible for the repair and can be faced with a substantial bill.

Sometimes damage can occur long after the building works have been completed or the sewer is built over. There is, however, no time limit on when the sewerage undertaker can charge the homeowner for damage caused, particularly if works were carried out without the correct permissions.

Getting permission for building works

When building over a public sewer you should seek the consent of the local sewerage undertaker. For some smaller scale building works, consent from the local authority building control could be enough for this purpose; the building control department will contact the sewerage undertaker if they are required to do so. This will be the usual process for any home improvements that require building permissions.

When building extensions that do not require building regulations, however, you should check directly with the sewerage undertaker to make sure you have the appropriate permissions to build over any public sewers that might be nearby.

Obtaining the correct consent is not just needed to protect you from charges and damages; it will also save time and money when you come to sell your home. Homeowners without the correct build-over consents (sometimes called build-over agreements) may have to take out insurance and experience delays when selling their home.

How to check if your sewer is public or private

If you’re buying a property, your solicitor will organise the Drainage and Water Search on your behalf, which will detail all the property pipe connections and whether your sewer is private or public. If you already own your property and you’re looking to carry out ground works or any home improvements that could impact the drainage, you’ll need to carry out checks first.

To see if your property has a private or public sewer you can check:

  • Your property deeds
  • Your Drainage and Water Search
  • With your water company, sewerage undertaker (often the same as your water company) or local authority
  • A sewerage map (your water company must make these available to you upon request)

Remember, it is not just sewers that you must look out for when extending or digging on your land; there could be other utilities or pipelines that could cause unexpected problems. A useful free tool to use before you dig for any home project is available from the Linesearch before u dig website.

Legal advice on property drainage and sewers

Whether you are buying, selling, repairing or improving your home, it’s important to know where your connections are and who is responsible for maintaining or repairing these. Our team of property solicitors can undertake thorough searches for things like public sewers and help your property transaction complete with minimum stress. Call QualitySolicitors Lockings to Make a Free Enquiry Today and for a no-obligation quote on 01482 300 200.