Being flooded with sewage is one of the most upsetting things you can experience in your home. This page gives some advice on what to do if this happens to you, and the money you may be entitled to claim back from your water company.
What should you do if you’ve been flooded with sewage?
Water and debris from sewers contains human waste and other unhygienic things. Coming into contact with it could make you very unwell. You should remember to:
- Keep away from the affected area, ensuring children and pets are kept away.
- If you must enter for any reason, ensure you are wearing protective, waterproof clothing and footwear, as well as plastic gloves and a face mask.
- If you start to feel unwell, leave immediately and contact your GP or NHS 111.
- Take care with electrics and gas: Do not turn on gas or electrics if they may have got wet. Only turn them on when they have been checked by a qualified technician.
Contact your water company
If the problem has been caused by a public sewer, your water or sewerage company should send someone out to visit as soon as possible and may also be required to pay you a refund on some of your sewerage charges (see more on this below). They may help by removing debris and disinfecting hard surfaces outside. The time it takes water companies to respond to incidents of sewer flooding varies and can also be affected by severe weather and how widespread the flooding is. For detailed information regarding response times and compensation, visit your water company’s website.
Contact your home insurance company
Your insurance might cover the cost of any damage, the clean-up and alternative accommodation if necessary. Different companies offer different levels of service in flooding situations, including clean-up assistance. Ask your insurance company what specific help it can offer you or request a copy of their Code of Practice which should set out what you can expect.
If you need to organise alternative accommodation
There are a number of options to consider:
- Check with your home insurance company to see if your insurance will cover the cost of alternative accommodation, and what their limitations are. Keep hold of any receipts detailing any expenses you have incurred as a result of the incident.
- If you are a council or housing association tenant, ask them about temporary accommodation. They will also be responsible for the clean-up to ensure your home meets certain health and safety standards.
- If you are a private tenant, your landlord may have an insurance policy to pay for alternative accommodation if you have to move temporarily due to a flood.
- Contact your local housing authority. They may be able to offer emergency accommodation.
- The National Flood Forum or your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to offer advice or help with finding emergency accommodation. You can also find more advice on the Shelter website.
Arranging for your home to be cleaned and dried
If flooding has been caused by a public sewer, your water or wastewater company is responsible for fixing the problem but not necessarily responsible for any damage caused. This means they might help by removing debris and disinfecting hard surfaces outdoors but they may not provide a deep clean and dry your property.
If possible, use professional cleaners to deep clean the affected areas. Your home insurance may cover this, so find out first if they have preferred suppliers and ensure you keep any receipts.
If you are a tenant (including private tenants), your landlord is likely to be responsible for covering the cost of a deep clean and any necessary repairs. It is your landlord’s responsibility to ensure your home meets certain health and safety standards.
Sewage contains human waste and other things which could make you very unwell if you come into contact with it. If as a last resort you do decide to do the clean yourself, refer to Public Health England’s advice on cleaning up safely after a flood (pdf). The government also provide advice on how to dispose safely of contaminated items.
What support is there for you?
Your right to a refund
It is important to contact your water company within three months of the incident to see if the incident entitles you to a refund on your sewerage charges. After three months your company is no longer obliged to pay out.
If sewage enters your property (including a garage) you may be entitled to a payment equal to your total sewerage charges for the charging year, or £1,000 (whichever is less).
If sewage floods your land or outdoor property, you may be entitled to a refund of 50% of your annual sewerage charge, up to a maximum of £500.
If there is more than one incident in a charging year, you could be entitled to a payment for each incident.
If the company fails to pay you a refund due within 20 working days of claiming, you are entitled to an extra payment. Contact your water company if you feel this applies to you.
Unfortunately there are some circumstances in which companies do not have to pay a refund for sewer flooding. These can include:
- If the incident occurs during ‘Exceptional’ weather conditions – such as very heavy or prolonged rain
- Incidents judged to have resulted from the customer’s actions or a defect, inadequacy or blockage in the customer’s own drains or sewers.
Water and sewerage companies must operate within the Guaranteed Standards Scheme (GSS). You can find more information about this on Ofwat’s website.
Do you have a serious illness, disability or other condition?
You may be entitled to extra help in the event of an incident.
All water companies in England and Wales have schemes that allow customers to register for free additional support so that, whatever their circumstances, they have appropriate access to water and sewerage services. These are known as priority services. These services are free and anyone can register. Full details regarding the range of support available can be found on our priority services information page.
Worried about the cost of putting things right?
Sewer flooding can be a hugely upsetting and costly experience.
Speak to your water company, your home insurance company and your landlord if applicable to make sure you are getting all the support and compensation you are entitled to. Keep hold of all your receipts and document the damage to your property to support any claims.
If you are not insured, replacing damaged furniture, electrical goods and other items can be expensive. Contact your local authority as they may offer grants to help cover emergency costs such as this. The National Flood Forum may also be able to give advice or help with sourcing replacement items.
If you are worried about meeting the cost of household bills, have a look at our benefits calculator and our grants search tool to make sure you are getting all the help you are entitled to. You may also find useful our advice on help with bills.
Protecting your home from future incidents
No one should have to experience sewer flooding more than once, but unfortunately that is the case for some.
If you think you might be at risk of sewer flooding, consider signing up for flood warnings to help you be prepared in case the worst happens.
The government provides advice for households, community organisations and businesses on preparing for a flood.
The National Flood Forum are a charity who provide help and represent people who are at risk of flooding. They may be able to advise you on steps to take to protect your property from future incidents.
Not happy with the support provided by your water company?
If you are unhappy with the service provided by your water or sewerage company after an incident, visit our complaints page for details on how best to raise a complaint.
If you have been through the complaints process with your water or sewerage company and are not happy with the response, our team may be able to help.
Further advice and support
The following organisations may also help with advice and support:
We want to End Sewer Flooding Misery
Our End Sewer Flooding Misery campaign is calling for improved compensation and support for victims of repeat sewer flooding. ‘Exceptional’ weather events are now happening more frequently and we think the standards of support should be updated to reflect this. Read more about our campaign.