Blocked drains and sewers
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 locked 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.
For help and advice on highway drainage, land drainage or private drainage, contact the council on 01524 582935 in office hours, or out of office in emergencies call 01524 67099.
Drain: A single pipeline, which conveys foul sewerage and/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: A pipeline, which normally conveys foul sewage and/or surface water runoff from more than one property. (i.e. the point from which two drains meet). Sewers may either be public or private.
Public Sewer: A sewer, which has been adopted as a public sewer or was in use before the 1st October 1937 and is therefore the responsibility of the Statutory Undertaker.
Private Sewer: A sewer, which is not a public sewer. A private sewer is normally the responsibility of the owner/s of the property, which it serves. It may still be a private sewer under the public highway until it joins the public sewer.
Statutory Undertaker: United Utilities (0845 602 0406)
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.