BUILD OVER AGREEMENTS – SEWAGE PIPES
If you want to build over a public sewer then you are legally obliged to enter into a Build Over Agreement with the water/sewage provider. This was not always the case in the past and this blog explores when a Build Over Agreement is required, how it affects you and your property and what the situation prior to October 2011 was in respect of build over schemes.
Today’s Position – Water Authority’s Obligations
From October 2011 a law was passed that stated that all pre existing private sewers and all newly built sewers were to be automatically adopted by the water authority in the area where they are situated. For example, Welsh Water for Wales, Thames Water for London etc. These water authorities have a statutory obligation to maintain these public sewers and this also means they have a right by law to come onto the property where those pipes are situated to undertake works to them. So if you have a sewage pipe running through your garden then if that pipe needs to be repaired or replaced the water authority has the legal right to come onto your property to undertake works to that pipe provided that they make the land good or compensate you accordingly depending on the circumstances. It also means that anyone planning to build within 3 meters to or over a public sewer is required to obtain the water authorities permission before doing so. The purpose of this is to prevent damage to the sewers as a result of the additional weight of a new building that could cause it to collapse which ultimately could result in structural damage to the property.
What is a Build Over Agreement?
A Build Over Agreement is one with the water authority that sets out if you were undertaking work over or within 3 metres of a public sewer it will not negatively affect that sewer below and it also ensures that the water authority have sufficient access to the sewer so it can be repaired and maintained in the future.
If you do not have a Build Over Agreement and you build on top of a public sewer or within 3 metres of that sewer then the water authority have the power to remove any structures that block access to the public sewer, and they are not liable for the damage caused. Typical offenders to Build Over Agreements are conservatories or extensions where the owner has simply built these without being aware that a Build Over Agreement is necessary or perhaps not being aware that there is an actual public sewer under these structures. When expanding your property, it is always important to check where the sewage pipes are located before starting works.
What happens if you do not have a Build Over Agreement?
Obviously you would want to avoid a situation whereby the water authority can demolish part of your building however, if you have built over the sewage pipe after October 2011 then to resolve the matters the options are either;
- Contact the water authority and obtain retrospective consent to the work. There is no guarantee they will give you consent and they might ask you to make changes to the property which could result in significant expense but at least you know for certain then that if it is granted you will have the necessary consent or
- Obtain legal indemnity insurance. This can protect against financial loss incurred as a result of the property (or part of the property) being built over a public sewer without a Build Over Agreement. This is a lot quicker and cheaper option than retrospective consent but obviously not as favourable as actually having the consent in the first instance.
Both of the above options are viable alternatives in place of a Build Over Agreement if one was not obtained at the time. It is important to have these in mind particularly if you come to sell the property as having built over a public sewer can cause issues in a sale and is not acceptable to most mortgage lenders which is why you need some alternative arrangement in place such as the options above.
Extensions that were in place before October 2011
If the property was extended over a public sewer before October 2011 then provided the pipe which was built over was private you would not need a Build Over Agreement. The October 2011 laws applied predominantly to pipes connected from properties directly into public sewers which may well have been situated along the public highway or along the rear of the property. This meant that the pipes directly linking the property to those mains pipes are most likely private and such when an extension was built over them, they remained private and a Build over Agreement would not have been necessary. It is important thought o establish when exactly the extension works were undertaken to see whether a Build Over Agreement was applicable at that time.
We hope this blog is useful. If you have any questions regarding Build Over Agreements or private/sewer pipes contact firstname.lastname@example.org.