Do I have a private or a public drain?
It is very easy for us to take our drainage systems for granted, forgetting that they require constant care and attention in order to work properly to provide us with the basic necessities such as clean water. When something goes wrong in your drains it can be a major inconvenience and a very stressful situation, so it is important to know what to do in a situation like that. One of the biggest questions you may have is whether it is your responsibility to fix whatever has gone wrong or not. The three main kind of drains you need to know about are drains, lateral drains, and sewers.
Drains are the pipes that carry wastewater away from your home, but are still within the confines of your property. Lateral drains will carry this wastewater from your property to the sewers, and you can often find them underneath public roads and pavements.
Sewers collect the water that has passed through both drains and lateral drains. There are still some privately owned sewage systems, but most are publicly owned now. It is important for you to be able to distinguish the difference between these types of drains in the case of a blockage, in order to establish whose responsibility it is to have the blockage removed. If the blockage occurs in the drains on your property, then it is your responsibility, but if the blockage is further down the line in the lateral drains or the public sewers then you will need to contact your local water board in order to have the issue resolved.
There is one main way to establish whether the blockage is in the public systems or on your property, and that is to talk with your neighbours. If they are experiencing problems similar to you, then it is likely that the problem is within either the lateral drains or the sewers. However, if they are not then you may have a blockage on your personal property that you are responsible for.
If you live on a site that houses a number of properties, you may have a private sewers. For example, if you live in a block of flats, or on a caravan site, then you may have a private sewer or a lateral drain. If the sewerage system serves only your home then any problem that may occur is your responsibility to deal with; however if your sewerage system serves more than one property it is up to all property owners to share the responsibility and split the costs.
If you are unsure of what kind of drain you have, it is possible to find out from your local sewerage company. You could also check the deeds of the property to see if it is stated there.
You may also be able to check a sewerage map, which your local sewerage company must make available to you upon request. However, if you are still unable to determine whether you have a private or a public drain after all this, you can speak to your local authority to find out.
The most important thing you can do when you find out that there is something wrong with your drains is to act quickly. A blocked drain will never go away on its own and can only get worse over time, until it starts to cause some real damage that is far more expensive to fix.
To save yourself time and money, familiarise yourself with everything you need to know about your drains so that should you encounter a problem you know exactly what to do. We highly recommend calling a professional drain engineer to come and take care of whatever is ailing your drains, for a guaranteed high quality service at a great price.