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Shared drains ending in our garden, how can we get neighbours to share costs of unblocking?

30 replies

Pannacotta · 26/05/2009 10:31

We share drains with two other houses - their drains both join into ours and the drains run through our garden before joining the mains.

Since we moved in a year ago there have been repeated blockages.

We've had several drainage companies round and have paid out prob £300 in total to have them unblocked.

The last time was last week and a tampon and a huge block of cooking fat was found (tampons not used in our house and all our cooking fat carefully put into kitchen bin not down sink).

Our neighbours know we share drains (one of them told us), we had raw sewage spilling into our garden last week so had to run and tell them not to use any water until problem was fixed.

However, neither set of neighbours is offering to share costs.

How can we politely ask them to cough up?
Am bit surprised that they havent offered even though they know the drains are shared...

OP posts:
lalalonglegs · 26/05/2009 12:18

Aren't all drains shared? I think rather than asking them to cough up I would politely drop into conversation the problems you have been having and what the drain people found down there and see if that improves things. Some people really are idiots about cooking fat.

Pannacotta · 26/05/2009 15:12

lala I havent lived in a house with shared drains running through our garden before. My understanding is that if you share drains you share teh cost, but many houses have their own rodding points/manhole covers, whereas ours are for both us and our two neighbours.

Thanks for your advice, we have politely told them what was found in the drains (one set of neighbours has two teenage girls) but no offer of contribution forthcoming, they just keep saying they don't put fat down the drains...

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lalalonglegs · 26/05/2009 17:47

Did your solicitor point out anything about shared or sole liability when you bought? I know it must be a real pain but in modern streets most houses have a shared drain running along the back gardens and there may be a mechanism for sharing costs but usually there isn't. I remember a conveyancing solicitor telling me delays virtually always came down to drains in the end... I wonder if there is any way of putting a grille across the drain where it enters your land so that any blockages clog your neighbours before they clog you (probably illegal but worth investigating).

muppetgirl · 26/05/2009 17:54

That's a tricky situation...
I would def check out solicitor/law first to see what in law can be done (if anything)

We shared a wall with our neighbour and also had an ivy plant that was growing over the two adjoining houses. We told the neighbours we were having the ivy cut to just above the downstairs windows (as opposed to the upstairs) and would they like to have their done too? One did, one didn't so we shared the cost with the one that did. The shared wall needed sorting and re-rendering so we were approached and we shared the cost also. I'm sure it said in the deeds we had to but it seemed only reasonable to so we didn;t hesitate. We just made sure there were 3 quotes in writing.

SOunds silly but have you actually asked for your neighbours to contribute? Maybe it doesn't occur to them that they should? Maybe they aren't going to offer unless you directly ask?

clam · 26/05/2009 18:09

Something similar happened to a friend of mine recently. Similar drains setup as you, but shared bit goes across neighbour's garden. It blocked recently, but their neighbour came round to them and said that, as they were a family of 4, with more visitors than them (older couple) it was "more likely" to be their fault, so could they please pay? For the whole lot.
I'm astounded to say that they agreed!!!!!

traceybath · 26/05/2009 18:12

Phone your council and speak to someone in the environmental health team as this comes under their remit - or at least it used to.

They can then advise on how to work out costs.

An ex-boyfriend was an EHO and used to spend lots of time sorting out bills between neighbours for drains.

Pannacotta · 26/05/2009 18:36

Thanks all, will call the council and speak to an EH for advice. Will they help even if the houses are privately owned?

We havent acutally asked them to help pay but having found tampons (not used in our household) which we told them about I was surprised that they didnt offer anythin g, despite the fact they have two teenage girls and the other neighbour is too old to be using tampons.

My DH talked to them and didnt ask them to help with the cost, I would have done.

The shared drains are noted in the deeds but no details of how to split costs.

Is not nice having sewage seeping onto the garden where my small DSs play so am determined to sort this out...

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3littlefrogs · 26/05/2009 18:40

Next time it happens, claim on your insurance. They will contact the insurers of all the neighbours (the drain sharing ones) and the costs will be split.

3littlefrogs · 26/05/2009 18:40

Next time it happens, claim on your insurance. They will contact the insurers of all the neighbours (the drain sharing ones) and the costs will be split.

3littlefrogs · 26/05/2009 18:41

Sorry - don't know what happened there - strange technical message popped up!

elvislives · 26/05/2009 18:52

try googling. I found this

Pannacotta · 26/05/2009 19:53

Our insurance excess is £250 so more than the cost to unblock/jet the drains.

I read your link elvis thanks, and I did see something similar on google, ie if the house pre-dates 1937 then it may not be the householder's responsibility but the local council, but not sure how I confirm this.
Will call my local council though they are not renowned for being helpful...

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travellingwilbury · 26/05/2009 19:58

How old is your house ?
We have the same problem and we have recently found out that as our house is over 100 yrs old that we can get the water board to come out for free .

Pannacotta · 26/05/2009 21:31

House is Victorian, built around 1860.
I will look into this travellingwilbury, shame I didnt know about it before, we have spent lots of time and money on the drains...

That said, the time before last when we had a problem I did call teh local water board and they woudl only check in the road, so not great service...

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MrsMuddle · 26/05/2009 22:45

travellingwilbury, having spent over £800 last year finding and fixing a blocked drain in the garden of my Victorian house, I'd be interested to know more about this.

Does it matter that we have a modern extension? Is it a law, or a local agreement, and is it relevant in Scotland too?

More info, please!


kjfcd · 26/05/2009 22:58

Definitely check out with the water board. Our old house had shared drains with 2 houses above us before exiting to main drain in the street.
There is a specific legal thing - section something or other that we had to quote, that means the water authority are obliged to be responsible for sorting any problems. I think it does apply to older houses, -ours was 1890 ish.
We had various blockages - some caused by concrete when the neighbours had been doing building work that had been poured in the drains, which had then set in the pipes, blocking half the pipes.
After recurring problems the water authority did a camera survey & found the pipes were damaged which was causing the blockages. Ended up having to replace a whole section of pipe but no cost to us.

GrapefruitMoon · 27/05/2009 15:31

Sadly I know far too much about these things....

But if all the houses are Victorian and the "drains" serve more than one property, they are actually classed as "sewers" and regardless of the fact that they are on your private property, they are the responsibility of the Water Company to maintain (which includes unblocking).

(The above may not apply if you live in Scotland though...)

If the water company refuses to come out, get in touch with environmental health at the council who should be able to put pressure on them. I would also write to the water company's customer centre, sending copies of the bills for the previous work and tell them that you hired a private company in good faith as you had been told by them that it was your responsibility to sort out and ask them to reimburse you. They should also investigate why you are getting repeat blockages.

If they won't take any action, write to OFWAT.


Pannacotta · 27/05/2009 19:38

Thanks Grapefruit, will get my backside into gear.
Bit gutted we have spent so much time and money so far, but hope we can pass it over to the water board...
Thanks all for the advice.

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GrapefruitMoon · 27/05/2009 20:21

It's probably worth trying to recoup the money from them if you have kept the receipts from the other times.

Pannacotta · 27/05/2009 20:25

I do have all the receipts, will give it a try....

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GrapefruitMoon · 28/05/2009 08:44

Which water company do you come under? The problem in a lot of cases is that the call centre staff don't get as many calls about drain problems as they do about water mains so their knowledge is limited (plus they work to a script). The key phrase to use in letters and phone calls is "section 24 sewer" which is what the one on your property is.

MrsMuddle · 28/05/2009 08:46

Grapefruit, what if the house is Victorian and the drains only serve the house (and are on the property). Would it still be up to the water board to fix?

(Can you hear the sound of straws being clutched?!)

Pannacotta · 28/05/2009 09:11

Thanks Grapefruit, really appreciate your help.
We are under Anglian Water.
Can I just ask how you know all this, have you had similar problems?

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GrapefruitMoon · 28/05/2009 17:34

Mrs Muddle, if the drains just serve one property then they are private and the responsibility of the householder. Sorry!

I have had similar problems Pannacotta but also know stuff from a professional pov in a previous life! - unfortunately knowing all this stuff didn't help much when I had problems with my drains - the customer centre at the water company had me almost in tears of frustration

MrsWobble · 28/05/2009 17:42

we had problems with shared drains in a previous house and used the section 24 sewer rule to get it sorted - our conveyancing solicitor told us about it when we bought the house - in case we ever had problems.

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