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Is the Council Responsible for Drains?

When it comes to the question of responsibility for drains in the UK, understanding the distinction between different types of drains is vital. Who is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the drains depends on their classification: private drains, private sewers, lateral drains, or public sewers. Let’s delve into this complex subject.

1. Private Drains

Private drains only serve one property, and responsibility for their maintenance and repair typically falls on the property owner. This includes any drain that is located within the property’s boundaries.  This means as a proper owner, you are responsible for unblocking your drain is you have a problem.

2. Private Sewers

Private sewers are shared drains serving more than one property, and they used to be the responsibility of the property owners. However, since October 2011, many of these have been transferred to England and Wales’s water and sewerage companies.

3. Lateral Drains

A lateral drain is a part of a drain that lies outside a property’s boundary, often running under a public highway or neighbours’ land. Responsibility for these drains usually rests with the local water and sewerage company.

4. Public Sewers

Public sewers, operated by the local water and sewerage company, collect water and wastewater from lateral drains. The water company is responsible for maintaining these.

The Role of the Local Council

While local water and sewerage companies are responsible for most drains, the local council has some obligations, particularly regarding drains on roads and public land.

  1. Road Drainage: The council is usually responsible for ensuring that the road drainage system, including street gutters and gullies, is functioning well to prevent flooding and other problems.
  2. Public Health Concerns: The council might also intervene if there’s a public health concern, such as a blocked public sewer causing a health hazard.


The responsibility for drains in the UK is split between property owners, water and sewerage companies, and the local council. As a property owner, understanding your responsibilities can save you time and confusion, especially if a problem arises. If in doubt, contact your local council or water company can clarify who is responsible for the drain in question.

Note: Regulations and responsibilities may vary slightly across different regions of the UK, and local bylaws might also impact these general rules. Always consult with local authorities or legal professionals if you have specific concerns or questions about your situation.

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