The transfer of private sewers and lateral drains – what it means and how it affects you

From 1 October 2011, the water and sewerage companies in England and Wales became responsible for privately owned sewers, and drains located outside of your property boundary (known as lateral drains). These pipes were previously the responsibility of the owners of the properties they are connected to.

This is a UK and Welsh Government initiative to remove the burden of responsibility away from property owners, who can face potentially expensive costs or complex ownership issues when problems occur with these pipes.

Below we provide information to show what this transfer means to you and provide answers to frequently asked questions about the transfer.

What is a private sewer?

A sewer is a pipe that carries waste water from more than one property. Sewers often run along several properties or towards the road. Most are owned and cared for by the local water and sewerage company.

Some groups of properties are connected to private sewers.  Before 1 October 2011, these sewers were the responsibility of the owners or occupiers of the properties connected to them. The water and sewerage companies are now responsible for these sewers.

What is a lateral drain?

A drain is a pipe that carries waste water away from one property. Drains belong to the owner of the property they are connected to. A drain is the property owner’s responsibility until it connects to either someone else’s drain or a sewer.

Nearly every property is connected to its own private drains, and the property owner is responsible for maintaining and repairing them. Some properties have shared drains, such as a block of flats. Owners of these properties are jointly responsible for their drains.

A lateral drain is the part of a drain which lies outside the property boundary, and in some cases, can be located under someone else’s land or a road. Before 1 October 2011, lateral drains were the responsibility of the individual property owner they serve.

How the transfer will affect you

On 1 October 2011, private sewers and lateral drains were automatically transferred to the water and sewerage companies.

The diagrams below show the ownership of drains and sewers for a range of properties (detached, semi-detached, terraced and flats) before the transfer, and what has changed from 1 October 2011. This shows that you are no longer responsible for:

  • Private sewers that you may have shared with another property owner.
  • The section of your property’s drainpipe that lies outside the property boundary.

Your local water and sewerage company is now responsible for the maintenance and repairs to these pipes.

Please note that you still retain the ownership and responsibility of the drain serving your property and located within your property boundary, as the diagrams below illustrate.

In the diagrams below the green pipe is the responsibility of the property owner, while the pink pipe is the responsibility of the water and sewerage company.

picutre of a detached property and highlighted sewer detached after 1 oct 11

Detached Property

picutre of a semi detached houses and highlighted sewer semi detached after 1 oct 11


Semi detached Property

picture of terraced houses with highlighted sewer ownershipterraced after 1 oct 11


Terraced House

flats sewer flats after 1 oct 11



Block of flats



Please click here for Frequently Asked Questions about the transfer of private sewers and lateral drains.

Steve Grebby has responsibility for this area.

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Last updated – October 2013

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