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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 and what to do to get a connection, sort a blockage and who is responsible for flooding and other problems from sewerage works. There is more information about public sewerage and how to solve problems relating to it in the Code of Practice on the Scottish Water website at www.scottishwater.co.uk .

Who provides sewerage services

Scottish Water provides sewerage services to domestic households in Scotland.

From 1 April 2008 business customers can choose their supplier from an approved list of licensed providers. There is an approved list on the Water Industry Commission for Scotland website at www.watercommission.co.uk or www.scotlandontap.gov.uk.

Scottish Water has a duty to provide and maintain public sewers and drains and to deal with sewage (legal note 1).

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 have responsibility to take the drains to a point where you can connect to their private drains and sewers (legal note 1).

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 (DEPA). It will decide whether or not it is reasonable for the authority to provide a supply.

New property

When you are building a new property you need to get advice from your architect and/or surveyor about any problems with your drainage pipes joining up to the public sewer.

If you are unhappy about what has been done to connect you to the public drainage system you may need to complain to the builder/architect.

Paying for using the public sewerage system

When you are connected to the public sewerage system (and most people are where they live) you pay for using it with your council tax.

Who is responsible for maintaining sewerage systems

The landlord or house owner's responsibilities

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

In some properties, for example flats, some pipes will be shared between the owners of the properties. If the pipes are shared, the owners will be jointly responsible for any repairs or maintenance. There is more information about responsibility for pipes on the Scottish Water website at www.scottishwater.co.uk.

If you share some of the piping with other property owners, for example, in a tenement you should have the rules about how to pay for repairs 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.

Blockages and leaks

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

If there is a leak or any damage to a public sewer you should contact Scottish Water.

You are breaking the law (legal note 2) 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 ensure that they are adequate and to inspect, maintain or repair the sewer. It has the right to enter your private property in order to do so. It can order repairs and recover the costs from the house owner.

It 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 the upkeep and repair of public sewers. Public sewers start at the point where the house-owner's drains connect to the main sewer.

Sewer flooding

When 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 it has 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 are responsible you are likely to have to pay this yourself.

Smells from waste water treatment works

There is a specific legal duty on Scottish Water to reduce any odour nuisance from waste water treatment works (legal note 3). The local authority environmental health department has responsibility 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 are a tenant of a private landlord the local authority may be able to assist you to improve your sewer piping under its Scheme of Assistance. The conditions for getting a grant will depend on what the problem is, or whether or not you have a disability and the house needs to be adapted. You should contact your local authority to find out what is available in your area.

Legal notes

1 Section 1 of the Sewerage Act 1968 as amended by Water Industry Scotland Act 2002

2 Section 5 of the Water Services etc (Scotland) Act 2005

3 Section 25 of the Water Services etc (Scotland) Act 2005

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