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Council/Water board claim we have a private sewer and so have to pay to fix it!!! Anyone had this?

(17 Posts)
sarahhal Thu 15-Feb-07 19:35:38

The public bridleway which runs down the side of our house ( we're a semi) has been flooding over since Christmas. Council and Yorkshire Water have been out to fix it, but claim it is a private sewer so ourselves and another four houses will have to pay for it. This bill is running into thousands! They say that if we can prove that the sewer has been there prior to 1937 (the houses are older than that) it will be classed as public and they will maintain it free of charge. None of us can find anything on our deeds - how the hell do we find out such information? Council and water people claim they don't have any old maps/plans etc.

Anyone any ideas ... at all.... please!

Gingerbear Thu 15-Feb-07 20:08:23

land registry might help?

KTeePee Thu 15-Feb-07 20:15:43

I know a bit about this sort of thing.... so if you can give a bit more info I might be able to help....

Do you mind saying a bit more about the area you live in - do you live in the middle of the countryside, a small village, big town, etc?

twelveyeargap Thu 15-Feb-07 20:18:12

Check your buiildings insurance, as this should cover work on private sewers, if it is indeed deemed to be private.

Would the council have maintained the sewers before privatisation of the water companies? I expect they will hold records of when the sewer pipes were laid. If Yorkshire water are claiming the responsibility does not lie with them, then I think the council are unlikely to admit to owning them unless you ask.

I have heard the reverse of your problem in London. The house our flat was contained within had a leaking sewer pipe under the cellar and Thames water claimed that if it was older than X number of years then it wasn't their responsibility, but the responsibility of either the householder, or the person to whom ground rent is paid, if such a person exists.

I would also ask the water company to come up with some documents which legally absolve them of responsibilty. It seems like a grey area.

KTeePee Thu 15-Feb-07 20:33:41

Ok I have to log off soon so will give you a bit to go on anyway....

Generally if a property was built before 1937 (1936 in some places) the assumption is that the sewer was built at the same time and because of various bits of legislation, that sewer is a public sewer.

If the houses are very old (built before sewerage systems were common) then in urban areas it is still likely the pipes were laid before 1937. However, in some rural vilages, houses were still on septic tanks, etc, until the 1970s. In those cases, only the main sewers under the road are probably public and the other pipes linking to them are private. If this is the case in your area, the council probably have records of the sewerage scheme being built and should know that in a particular village which pipes are public with everything else being private.

If this is not the case in your situation then I would say that unless policies have changed drastically since I last worked in this field, the general presumption is that anything pre 1937 is public - providing two or more houses connect to the pipe in question.

sarahhal Thu 15-Feb-07 22:18:40

Thanks TeePee, not been around this eve to reply to your first message. As we are semi rural I'm a little concerned that what you say about the septic tank may apply to us. I'm surprised that there's nothing in our deeds about this. Am on half term hols next week so will have some time to get in touch with the council. Thanks again

KTeePee Thu 15-Feb-07 22:28:16

If the thing about no sewers until the 70s applies to you, then the council/water company should (in theory) know that and have explained to you why the sewer is question is private. Having said that, since responsibility for maintenance of the sewers passed to the water companies a lot of that knowledge has been lost - initially councils still did the day-to-day running of the sewerage systems but that has changed in many areas so may not be anyone at the council any more who knows much about it if they don't have a contract with the water company any more. Unfortunately a lot of the information was held in people's heads (rather than on plans) and while water companies are trying to address this it's obviously not easy to do....

Are any of the neighbours likely to have been around in the 70s (or it might have happened more recently) and might remember what happened? Or a local historian?

If it looks like it is private then I would contact your insurers and see if they can help....

sarahhal Thu 15-Feb-07 22:39:42

The lady we bought the house off ( her father built it for her as a wedding present in 1910!) still lives around here somewhere. Will get the village tongues onto the job! A quick word in the shop should set things in motion.

We're lucky that we have very comprehensive house insurance - the house next door to us had been derelict for years and after the builders moved in a couple of years ago we began to worry about the very informal boundaries and what they would try to get from us! Fortunately we didn't have any problems but being as rubbish as I am about paperwork we are still paying about four times as much insurance per month in case we had to cover legal fees etc. Fingers crossed our insurance covers us at least some part of the way!

CanSleepWontStarve Thu 15-Feb-07 22:46:29

Can't really answer any of your questions, but just to say that we do have private sewerage, shared by 6 houses, and it has cost us several thousand to have new stuff installed over the last few years. Our deeds are reasonably clear over what proportion of the cost we have to pay, but some of our neighbours' are less clear, and they spent ages contesting the cost, I think to no avail.

CanSleepWontStarve Thu 15-Feb-07 22:47:17

(Our insurance doesn't cover stuff like this AFAIK).

sarahhal Thu 15-Feb-07 22:52:36

Oh bugger Cantsleepwontstarve!! I really would have thought that there would have been something in our deeds about this. Oh well, will get onto it next week!
Thanks again to everyone!

LittleBoSheep Thu 15-Feb-07 23:07:38

Generally the insurance only covers it within the boundries of your land so if the pipe is outside it wouldnt be covered.

We had the same problem a sewage backed up into our garden due to a damaged pipe on unadopted land, when we got in touch with our insurance company they said we were only covered for accidental damage not wear & tear.

We went back and forth between the council & housing association. Some of the homes were housing assocation and they "were not interested until it effects one of our tenants" so we got plumbing rods & cleared the blockage on our land (it has been fine since) further down the hill HA had to get dyno rod out about a week later!!

LIZS Fri 16-Feb-07 10:25:17

On the house we're buying a similar situation showed up on the Drainage Search - do you have any paperwork from your solicitor or could you collectively pay for a search ?

Loshad Fri 16-Feb-07 10:50:20

we do have a private sewer and septic tank, but because of that we don't pay sewerage to yorkshire Water ( only pay for water in), so if you've been paying them for sewerage then you might (reasonably ?) presume that the sewer is provided by thm.

LIZS Fri 16-Feb-07 10:53:36

but surely you still have to pay towards the main sewer your private one feeds into ?

Loshad Mon 19-Feb-07 10:44:17

It doesn't feed into a mains sewer, it runs into our septic tank which drains onto our fields (although if i'm correct friends with septic tanks that don't drain onto their own land still don't pay any sewerage)

tenbygirl Thu 22-Feb-07 18:02:44

Most people with private sewers pay sewerage charges - its only sceptic tank people who don't.

Private sewers drain into public sewers and go to sewage treatment works. I used to be a sewerage engineer and have seen a lot of people in the same position as the OP. They normally can't believe it when you explain that the water company are only responsible for the main sewer in the highway. Most houses, the connecting sewer, including any pipework under the pavement, road is the responsibility of the householder.

My house was built in 1901, but we are rural and I doubt very much that currently the water company would be responsible for them. I know that outside of the main city - there are only 8 other properties in a 30 mile radius that are included in their list.

However there is hope. Only last week the government announced that water companies are going to be forced to adopt all private sewers. Look here.

http://www.defra.gov.uk/Environment/water/industry/sewers/index.htm

This latest press statement was only released today so its all very new and I'm not sure wen it will come into force. Might be worth ringing Defra.

What's actually wrong with the sewer - have they put a camera down in to see?

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