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Who is Responsible for a Shared Downpipe?

Imagine waking up to a blocked drain, and you aren’t even sure who is to blame!

When it comes to a shared downpipe, three people could be accountable for it; the local water company, you, or your neighbour. Typically, there are three potential reasons behind the clogging; a private sewer, a drain, or a clogged public sewer.

gutter drain pipeAs stated by the Public health law, these three situations have their descriptions, so the best you can do is be patient and try to find out which one is the problem. That said, here is a thorough guide on who is responsible for shared downpipe and what to do when you find out;

A drain

This standard pipe transfers drainage from a home or building within its boundaries. Drains come in different sizes and types, depending on their purpose. For instance, you could have one drain for moving the waste from the toilet, another for moving kitchen water from the sink, etc. However, as long as it is within your property, you are in charge of repairing and unblocking it until it reaches another person’s property.

A sewer

Like a drain, a sewer is a standard pipe, though it moves drainage water from private and lateral drains from several properties. Regarding who is responsible for it, the law states that all the owners or residents connected to a given sewer should repair and unblock it.

On the other hand, the local water firm is in charge of removing blockages and repairing and maintaining the public sewers. Initially, before the law was modified, some property groups were linked to private sewers, and the residents and owners of the properties were accountable for the maintenance of the said sewers. However, that law was changed, and now you are only answerable for removing blockages and maintaining the drains within your home or residence.

So, who is really responsible for the shared downpipe?

Having seen the difference between a drain and a sewer, let’s find out who is responsible for the shared downpipe. The new law makes it easier to identify who is to blame for shared downpipe, and here is how it works;

Detached houses

Under the previous law, you were in charge of the drains until they connected to the primary sewer pipe. This simply translated to you being answerable for the drains beneath the pavement and a section of the road outside the property. However, you are now only answerable for the drain within the property boundaries since the law was changed.

Semi-detached houses

Initially, if you and your neighbour were linked to one drain, you were responsible for it until it reached the main sewer. Most of the time, this was never past the road outside your house.

All the same, after the law was changed, you are only answerable for the drain within your neighbour’s boundary. Hence, if it accesses your property from your neighbour before moving to connect to the main sewer, then you’re only accountable for the part within their property. This simply means that the local water company is in charge of the drain within your property. Therefore, while the drain is within your home, you are not in charge of it.

>> How to get rid of rotten egg smell from a drain 

Terraced houses

Before the law was changed, each residence was responsible for any drainage pipes that passed through their property before connecting to the sewer. But, after the change, you are only answerable for the portion just before it links to the drains and other homes in the area. Thus, if the drain moves from one side of several terraces to the other side, you’re only accountable for the part of the drainage before it links to the sewer. This leaves the local water company answerable for the rest.

Other private sewers

Some residents, precisely those in the countryside, do not link to a public sewer directly; homes with a septic tank, cesspit, or treatment plant haven’t been impacted by the changes in the law and typically have independent arrangements for maintenance and clogged drains.

Exclusive pumping stations

Some property groups are not linked to the main sewer directly but through an exclusive pumping station. Initially, the property owners were answerable for the pumping station, the connection to the sewer, and pipes.

Blocked drain or sewer

Call your local water firm if you think the issue is a clogged sewer. Once they look and find out the blockage is within the drain you’re responsible for, you’ll need to organise yourself and find a way to clear the clogging.

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What if the neighbours don’t want to pay to unblock the clogged drain?

Most firms specialising in unblocking drains will send an invoice to the individual who contacted the, regardless of who is in charge of covering the expense. Hence, if you reside in a semi-detached or terrace house and find the blockage is a result of the neighbouring drainage pipes, you’ll need to approach your neighbour so that they can pay. Besides, the local council can give legal notices to people who refuse to clear blockages under different Public Health laws.


If you reside on shared land, you should have shared responsibility for maintenance and repair. Hence, if the gutters are damaged, it only makes sense that you share the repair cost.

Again, if you share the water outlet drain and guttering with your neighbour, there’s usually a shared responsibility and accountability for repair and maintenance. However, you should check your deeds to confirm whether the drainage and guttering are joint.

So before organising anything, confirm with your neighbour, and once the deeds check out, you can make arrangements. Most neighbours will accept to share the cost, particularly if the deeds show that the guttering and drainage outlets are joint and if you ask politely.

On the other hand, if they don’t accept, you will have to pay for the work and request a refund of their portion in writing. However, if they still refuse, you might have to go to the county court and sue them. Fortunately, the law is on your side!

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