From 1 October 2011 the ownership and maintenance of existing private sewers and lateral drains in England and Wales will be transferred to the regulated sewerage companies (RSCs) as a result of the Water Industry (Schemes for Adoption of Private Sewers) Regulations 2011, which came into force on 1 July 2011.  The transfer is intended to ensure a higher standard of maintenance of sewers and pipework and provide clarity for property owners as to their obligations for maintenance.

The change will affect the sections of private sewer pipe or drain that before 1 July 2011 are shared with another property or those that run through another owner’s land. A property owner will remain responsible for the sections of pipe that run between their property and the private sewer or lateral drain which has been transferred to the RSC. Private sewers and lateral drains connected to a public sewer on or after 1 July 2011 will remain private until a proposed supplementary scheme comes into force at a later date.

The RSCs must have served notice on current owners and published their proposals by 1 August 2011. Thames Water for example have delivered legal notices and advice leaflets to their customers door to door. Please see the diagrams below produced by Thames Water for a clear illustration of the changes.

Owners are allowed to appeal against the transfer either if they feel they will suffer serious detriment as a result of the change or if the requisite notice has not been served on them. Appeals on the grounds of detriment have a strict two month deadline from the date the notice is received, but if notice is not issued there is no limit on the appeal time. Property owners are advised to check whether notice has been served on them by their relevant RSC.

Responsibility for shared sections of pipes remain the responsibility of the current owners until 1 October 2011 but after then the relevant RSC can be contacted in relation to any maintenance or repair issues.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published guidance on issues that are likely to arise from the transfer scheme and they can be contacted for further information and assistance.

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