How will the new drainage ownership law affect the work of Conveyancing Solicitors? More delays?
Important changes in the law which has just come into effect will have a significant effect for many property owners, particularly those in more rural areas - although few will probably realise it.
Conveyancing Solicitors across the country may also have one less thing to worry about, when acting for buyers.
From the 1st October, water companies in England and Wales are responsible for the repair of the privately owned drains that connect many houses to the public sewer system. Although many householders are probably unaware of it, the majority of homes are not connected directly to a main sewer. Instead, their drainage runs through shared or combined drains which may run through a number of properties before connecting to a public main. The water companies refer to these as lateral sewers.
Why sewers matter when buying a property
Homebuyers may know that Conveyancing Solicitors carry out a drainage search on the purchase of a property, but few realise the importance of this.
The fact is that most householders are not worried where the drains from their property run – at least until the pipes start to leak or they get a bill for repairs from someone several doors down the road.
The reason that Conveyancing Solicitors make a search is to obtain details of the pipes in the vicinity of a property. It may then be necessary to ascertain whether there is a legal right to use any which are not adopted (often this is not recorded in the deeds) and also to check whether the seller had ever had to make any contributions to maintenance costs or experienced any problems.
If a blockage occurred or a pipe needed repairing, the householder beneath whose property the problem occurred would have to arrange for the necessary work to be carried out. This could entail substantial expenditure, and although the owner might be legally entitled to recover such costs from his neighbours, that could be a difficult and lengthy process.
Now that the responsibility for most lateral drains has passed to water companies, that potential problem will now have disappeared for the majority of householders. Of course this will probably lead to a general rise in water rates, but at least individual homeowners will not now face sudden bill for repairs to a pipe under someone else's property – not to mention the other problems that can arise if there is a blockage and no-one is prepared to do anything about it.
Unfortunately, Conveyancing Solicitors will still need to make drainage enquiries, as not everyone will benefit from these new arrangements.
For instance, houses which are directly connected will still remain liable for the pipes within their boundaries, while the private pumped systems which serve some modern homes will still remain privately owned. Dwellings in the countryside may be served by a septic tank, which could lie in an adjoining owner's property.
If you require a Conveyancing Solicitor and suspect the home you intend to purchase may be affected by this legislation (or you simply require more information) call Fridaysmove on 0330 660 0286.