Would the buyer have to pay for repairs to drains? Solicitors in Barnet wanted to know.

Drains are probably not high on anyone's list of things to look out for when buying a house, and homebuyers may query why Conveyancing Solicitors in Barnet make drainage enquiries in for houses in that area. Most people assume that homes in Barnet will be connected to sewers which will be maintained by Thames Water, so why should they worry about them?

However something which Barnet Conveyancing Solicitor Matthew Rumbold found out on the purchase of a property on East Crescent, Barnet, N11 highlighted the need for these enquiries to be made.

Ms H had instructed Matthew on the purchase of the freehold semi-detached house which she had found through Foxton's office at 811 High Road, Barnet, London N12 8JT. The usual enquiries made by Conveyancing Solicitors in Barnet were put in hand. These included the local search with the London Borough of Barnet at North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, Barnet, N11 1NP. A request was also sent to Thames Water for information about the water and drainage connections to the property.

When returned, the replies included a note that the council had previously served a notice under section 59 of the Building Act 1984 in respect of the property which gives local authorities powers to require property owners to repair defective drains:

“S59 (1) If it appears to a local authority that in the case of a building—

(a) . . .  

(b) a cesspool, private sewer, drain, soil pipe, rain-water pipe, spout, sink or other necessary appliance provided for the building is insufficient or, in the case of a private sewer or drain communicating directly or indirectly with a public sewer, is so defective as to admit subsoil water,

(c) a cesspool or other such work or appliance as aforesaid provided for the building is in such a condition as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance,  

they shall by notice require the owner of the building to make satisfactory provision for the drainage of the building, or, as the case may be, require either the owner or the occupier of the building to do such work as may be necessary for renewing, repairing or cleansing the existing cesspool, sewer, drain, pipe, spout, sink or other appliance ”

Making sure that the buyer would not have to pay repair costs

Although many homeowners do not realise it, many suburban homes are not directly connected to public sewers. Instead their drains connect to private shared drains which may run through many neighbouring properties before linking to a main pipe. If these shared drains fall into disrepair or become blocked then individual owners will be responsible for repairs, otherwise the council may repair them and charge the property owners.

Matthew asked Boulter and Co. of 11-19 Park Road, Barnet N8 8TE, the sellers' Conveyancing Solicitors in Barnet, for more information about the statutory notice. He was concerned that if the sellers still owed anything to the local authority this could involve expense for the buyer. Things might be even worse if works still needed to be carried out.

The sellers were pleased to be able to confirm that although there had been a problem in the past, the necessary remedial works had long since been completed and inspected by the relevant authorities. There were no costs outstanding so the buyer would not be faced with any additional expenses.  

Matthew recommended that to his client that she had a proper survey and inspection made, to ensure that there were no continuing problems. That survey was satisfactory, so the purchase was soon completed and the buyer was happy to know that there was no likelihood of her receiving a sudden bill from the council.

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