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Public sewerage

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland only.

On this page you can find out who provides public sewerage, what to do to get connected or sort a blockage and who is responsible for flooding and other problems with sewerage works.

Who provides sewerage services

Scottish Water provides sewerage services to domestic households in Scotland.

Business customers can choose their supplier from an approved list of licensed providers. There's an approved list of providers on the Water Industry Commission for Scotland website.

Scottish Water has a duty to provide and maintain public sewers and drains and to deal with sewage.

Getting connected to the public sewerage system

Whether you own or rent your property, you have a right to be connected to public sewers to carry away domestic sewage and surface water. If you need new piping to do this, Scottish Water is responsible for taking the drains to a point where you can connect to their private drains and sewers.

In very remote areas, it may not be reasonable for Scottish Water to connect your property to a public sewer because it would cost Scottish Water too much to put in the piping for only your property.

If Scottish Water refuses to provide a supply, you can appeal to the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals. It will decide if it's reasonable for the authority to provide a supply.

New property

If you're building a new property, you need to get advice from your architect or surveyor about any problems with your drainage pipes joining up to the public sewer.

If you're unhappy about what's been done to connect you to the public drainage system, you may need to complain to the builder or architect.

Paying for using the public sewerage system

If you're connected to the public sewerage system - and most people are where they live - you pay for using the sewerage system with your council tax.

Who is responsible for maintaining sewerage systems

The landlord or homeowner's responsibilities

You or your landlord is responsible for the waste pipes in your home and up to the point where they connect with the public sewer. The connection is normally at the boundary of the property.

In some properties, for example flats, some pipes are shared by the owners of the properties. If the pipes are shared, the owners are jointly responsible for any repairs or maintenance. There's more information about responsibility for pipes on the Scottish Water website.

If you share some of the piping with other property owners, for example in a tenement, the rules about how to pay for repairs should be set out in your title deeds. If you have difficulty working out who should pay for the repair, you may need help from a solicitor to sort out the bill. You can read more about sorting out neighbour disputes.

Blockages and leaks

If there's a blockage, a leak or a problem with waste pipes that are the landlord or homeowner's responsibility, they'll have to arrange and pay for any repairs.

If there's a leak or damage to a public sewer, you should contact Scottish Water.

You're breaking the law if you put anything into the sewerage system which could damage or block it or is harmful to health.

Scottish Water has the authority to examine your drainage systems to make sure they're adequate and to inspect, maintain or repair the sewer. They have the right to enter your private property to do so. Scottish Water can order repairs and recover the costs from the homeowner.

Scottish Water will normally give you warning of access needed to premises or grounds. If you refuse to let the authority enter your premises, it can obtain a warrant from a Justice of the Peace and enter after 24 hours' notice.

Scottish Water's responsibilities

Scottish Water is responsible for maintaining and repairing public sewers. Public sewers start at the point where the homeowner's drains connect to the main sewer.

Sewer flooding

If your sewer pipe floods, your building insurance policy will normally cover the costs of damage caused by sewer flooding. You may also be able to claim compensation from Scottish Water if they've been negligent.

If the flood is from the pipes that are your responsibility, you won't be able to claim from Scottish Water.

If the sewerage is leaking from a drain cover on your property, this will serve more than your property so is likely to be the responsibility of Scottish Water.

If you don't have building insurance to cover damage caused by a leak in pipes for which you're responsible, you're likely to have to pay this yourself.

Smells from waste water treatment works

Scottish Water has a specific legal duty to reduce odour nuisance from waste water treatment works. The local authority's environmental health department is responsible for monitoring how Scottish Water handles any complaints.

A person living beside a waste water treatment works who is bothered by unpleasant odours can complain directly to Scottish Water or the local authority. If Scottish Water fails to resolve the problem, the local authority can impose an enforcement notice.

Grants for domestic sewage improvements

If you own your own home or you're a tenant of a private landlord, the local authority may be able to help you improve your sewer piping under its scheme of assistance for house repairs and adaptations. The conditions for getting a grant will depend on what the problem is, or whether you're disabled and the house needs to be adapted. You should contact your local authority to find out what's available in your area.

Scottish Water's code of practice

Scottish Water has a code of practice Google Drive with more information about public sewerage and how to solve problems relating to it.

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