Blocked drains and sewers


Drain: A single pipeline, which conveys foul sewerage or surface water runoff from a single property. A drain is still a drain even if it goes past the boundary of your property until it joins a sewer.

Sewer: The law on sewers changed recently, and sewers which take sewage from more than one property are now the responsibility of the statutory undertaker. In this area, the statutory undertaker is United Utilities who can be contacted on 0345 672 3723.

A toilet that is backing up, overflowing drains or foul smells in the area around drains are all indications of a blocked or damaged drain or gully.

A blocked or damaged drain or gully is usually indicated by a toilet that is backing up, overflowing drains or foul smells in the area around drains.

  1. For help and advice on highway drainage and land drainage, please phone 0300 1236701 option 1 
  2. For your own drain, seek advice from an appropriate contractor.
  3. For private drainage e.g. septic tank, or neighbour nuisance please contact the council on 01524 582935 in office hours, or out of office in emergencies call 01524 67099


It is the responsibility of the owner-occupier to maintain and clear a private drain/sewer. If the property is let then it is the landlord's responsibility. If you live in a row of houses then the problem could be a shared one.

Role of Lancaster City Council

The council has a statutory duty in the interests of public health to ensure that blocked and foul-smelling private drains are cleared and, where appropriate, to recharge the householders for this service. Any recharge is apportioned equally to all households feeding into the sewer up to the point that it is blocked and follows the serving of a notice.

The council may become involved if:

  • Private households, being served by a drain and/or private sewers are unable or unwilling adequately to deal with the problem. In these cases we are able to serve a Legal Notice requiring the work to be done. The work may be done by the Council in default of the owners. However this will be subject to an administration charge and it will normally be more economical for the owners to agree amongst themselves to arrange for the works to be carried out.
  • Access is not possible or denied onto a property to investigate the situation. An Authorised Officer of the council may enter the property at any reasonable time to assess the extent of the problem.
  • The council has reason to believe that a risk to public health exists and it is unlikely that the person(s) responsible will be able or willing to carry out necessary works.

The council has a number of options for service of notice in respect of private drains and sewers using Public Health Acts, The Building Act and other provisions but legal action is complicated and can involve extra expense and delay. However, legal action should not be necessary where owners are aware of their shared ownership and clearance and repair will be quicker and cheaper if they can agree to have works carried out and share costs fairly amongst themselves.

Last updated: 29 February 2016