Drains and public sewers

What is a private drain?

A private drain is a sewer pipe that serves only one household. It is owned by and is the responsibility of the property owner.

What is a public sewer?

A public sewer is any sewer pipe or drain that is shared by more than one household. As of 1 October 2011, new legislation transferred ownership and responsibility for these shared pipes and drains to the sewerage companies, which in our district is Southern Water.

Who is responsible for repairs and maintenance?

Any repairs or maintenance works to private drains is the responsibility of the property owner. Any repairs or maintenance works to public sewers is the responsibility of Southern Water.

How can I locate a private drain?

Building control do not keep records of private drainage. You should employ an independent surveyor or specialist company to survey your drainage system. It may be possible to gain a basic understanding of the location and depths of your underground drainage by:

  • the position of manhole covers

  • the depth of the drainage channels below each cover

  • the position of above ground soil pipes

However this information can be limited, and a specialist survey is recommended if you are planning changes or additions to your drainage system. Please note: any changes to private drainage requires building regulation approval.

Building over or within 3 meters of public sewers

By law, nobody has a right to build over, or close to, a public sewer. If your proposed building work does involve building within 3 meters of or over over the top of a public sewer, you will need to contact Southern Water to gain a build over agreement. Southern Water will let you know what you need to do to protect the public sewer from any damage that could result from your building work. In some circumstances building over may not be possible, although this is quite uncommon.