Blocked Drains Outside: Who is Responsible? You or the City?

Keith Baker

By Keith Baker

Last Updated on May, 2024

Blocked drains are a messy problem that no one wants to deal with. 

As a homeowner, renter, or property manager, it’s essential to understand who is responsible for clearing clogged drains inside and outside your property boundaries.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know exactly where the responsibility lies and have a clear plan to handle your blocked drains.

Quick Summary

  • The responsibility for blocked drains outside can fall on different parties depending on the location and type of drain. This could include landlords, tenants, private sewer companies, or local water companies.
  • Understanding who is responsible for clearing blocked drains inside and outside a property’s boundaries is important for homeowners, renters, and property managers.
  • There are various methods for unblocking drains, but when in doubt, it’s best to seek expert intervention. It’s also important to protect your property by considering insurance coverage for private drains and educating yourself on the responsibilities outlined in your property deeds and rental agreements.

Who is Responsible for Blocked Drains Outside?

a drain pipe is being repaired due to blockages inside a property

Identifying clogged drains beneath your property can be overwhelming. Detecting the root cause is even more challenging and may need expert intervention, which can be expensive.

Therefore, In some cases, the liability of a blocked drain can be lifted (if you’re lucky), but it can also turn against you. Let’s break it down for you. 

Landlord or Tenant?

Generally, landowners are responsible for repairing or maintaining the drains underneath their private residences. 

On the other hand, tenants have the ability to pass any maintenance charges to the landlord. 

However, the responsibility to maintenance or replace a blocked drain in a rental property can come from the circumstances and the lease or rent agreement between the landowner and the tenant.

So tenants should also be aware not to cause blockages and review terms carefully to avoid uncertainties.

Shared Drainage Responsibility

Shared drainage responsibility is determined by the type of property and location of the drain. Lateral drains (not sure what lateral drain is? Let’s discuss this next) that carry waste water into the sewage system are liable to the local water company. 

The responsibility falls to the complex’s management company for residents in flats or apartments that share drainage facilities. The management company usually covers the costs of lateral drain issues. Still, in some cases, residents may pay an annual fee to cover repairs.

What’s the Difference Between Drains, Lateral Drain and Sewers?

A drain is a pipeline that serves only one property or household and drains water and waste to a public sewer pipe.

The lateral drains are a collection of drains that carry waste out of your building into a public or private sewer system. It is usually located outside your home’s boundaries, typically beneath public pavement or sidewalks. 

A sewer drainage system is an underground network of pipes that hold sewage, like wastewater and human waste. 

All drains lead to sewers, and all sewers go to disposal points. Sewers will accompany more than one property and can be owned publicly or privately.

Repairs and Responsibility for Blocked Drains

a drain cleaner is cleaning a drain inside a property

As we discussed previously, the responsibility for blocked drains within their household boundaries will be on the landowner. 

What if the neighbour’s property drains are causing issues for your property? You can seek compensation and ask them to stop the action immediately.

Regarding rental property, the general rule is that clogged drains are the landlord’s responsibility. However, In case of negligence or intentional damage by a tenant, the landlord may charge for repairs.

Ultimately, responsibility depends on the specific circumstances and agreements outlined.

Repairs and Responsibility for Sewers (Private and Public)

Public sewer and lateral drains are located outside private property limits. Generally, public sewer systems are maintained by the council or local water company. 

You don’t need to fix clogs or repair lateral drains you share with your neighbour, block of flats, or several properties. Your local sewer company will take care of it.

However, suppose private sewer lines or unadopted sewers lie within your private residence boundaries. In that case, you or the landlord will be responsible until they connect with the public sewer system.

How to Unblock a Drain?

Unblocking a drain might sound like a hectic task in the first place and it possibly can be. But before you call in that professional plumber, you can try out some essential home remedies for yourself to resolve those minor clogs.

  • Boiling Water

Try pouring hot water down the moving drains to clear clogs like grease, conditioner, and toilet paper. Extreme heat helps these substances to break them up. This is possibly the easiest and quickest way to unblock a drain. Repeat the process if needed.

  • Use a Plunger

A simple, clean sink or tub plunger can unclog drains. Place the plunge over the drain opening or hole by creating a tight seal. Pump the handle up and down with forceful strokes to get the blockage removed with a vacuum effect.

  • Baking Soda and Vinegar

Pour ½ cup of baking soda and vinegar down the drain, which causes a chemical reaction. Immediately cover the drain with a plunge to enhance the foaming action. Let the mixture sit for about 1 hour, and pour boiling water to clear the blockages.

  • Dish Soap or Drain Cleaners

Dish soap and drain cleaners also create a chemical reaction, breaking down most of the blockage occurs in the drain to slide through easily. Follow this with hot water to clogs caused by greasy materials.

When should you call in the plumber? After trying out all the options above, you can finally give up for good and dial your nearby expert to look at your clogged drains. 

Why expert intervention? Basically, they know what they’re doing, and they have suitable types of equipment, like drain cameras and hydro jets or pressure jets, to make the process less complex.

Find Suitable Protection for Your Property Blocked Drain

a drain pipe is near a road and house

The average lifespan of drainage pipes is about 50 to 100 years, and if you’re not the property’s first owner, your drains will cause some sort of issue at some point.

You will have to pay for complex drainage issues for your property by contacting an expert. However, you may take out insurance for your private drains.

Consider insuring against sewer backups, which, in uncertainty, can cause thousands of dollars in damage to the floors, garden, walls, and neighbouring property. Most house insurance providers offer blocked private or lateral drain cover for nominal costs.

Not Sure Who is Responsible for Blocked Drains and Sewers?

After careful examination, are you still unsure who is responsible for your underground drains? No need to panic. You can follow these steps:

  • Contact your nearby water company or sewerage company
  • Visit your nearby area council or local authority
  • Review your property deeds or rental agreements
  • Check a sewer map (sewerage companies offer them if you request)

Final Thoughts

Identifying the responsible party for blocked drains and sewers can be complex. It is crucial to understand the difference between drains, lateral drains, and sewers and the responsibilities of landlords, tenants, and property owners. 

Sometimes, the responsibility may fall on the local water company or management company. Reviewing property deeds, rental agreements, and sewer maps to determine responsibility is essential. 

Protecting your property by insuring against sewer backups and considering expert intervention when necessary can also help alleviate the burden of costly repairs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, plumbers can unblock and deal with outside private drains. It’s recommended to hire an expert plumber for complicated drainage issues. For drains beyond your property, contacting your local sewerage company is advised.

If a public sewer is within your property boundary, it’s usually maintained by the local water company. You should conduct a private drain survey to understand your drainage system, pipe types, and responsibility for repairs. For more details, check your property’s deeds or contact your sewerage company.

If your neighbours refuse to pay for drain issues originating from their property, they are liable for repairs or compensation. Communicate the situation clearly to them first. If they still refuse, consider seeking legal advice or professional help to resolve the issue.

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