Property Searches: Drainage and Water Search

Drainage Water Search

Property Searches: Drainage and Water Search

Conveyancing Property Searches are checks carried out with a specific organisation or authority on a property and the local area to reveal important information about the property. Examples of property searches including Local Authority, drainage and water search, environmental, coal and, flood risk searches.

In this article within our series on Property Searches, we are looking specifically at the Drainage and Water search, which is one of the main searches carried out on properties.

What is a Drainage and Water Search?

When purchasing a property, your conveyancing solicitor will instruct you as to the appropriate time to carry out the property searches and which searches are required for your specific property. The drainage and water searches are carried out with the local company responsible for providing the drainage and water services in your local area. You can find your water supplier using this link to Water UK here

What information does a Drainage and Water search reveal?

The information revealed as part of a drainage and water search varies on properties and can be particularly useful if the property you are purchasing is located in a rural area where septic tanks and non-mains services and supplies are more commonplace.

How are the Water Services charged at a property?
This section of the search confirms if your property is being measured and therefore you will be charged on a metered basis or if you its is unmeasured and therefore the charging will be based on a rateable value.

Are there plans to change how Water Services are charged at a property?
In some cases, a local Water Authority has decided to change from an unmeasured system to a measured system. This change usually becomes effective at the time of change of ownership of a property and therefore if this is applicable to the area you are purchasing within, then you will need to factor the logistics of this into your decision  

Is the property connected to a mains water supply?
Whilst the vast majority of properties especially in urban areas are connected to a mains water supply, there are some rural properties which are not and so are connected to a private supply. This currently stands at around 1% of properties across England and Wales. If you are considering purchasing a property that is found to have a private water supply, your conveyancing solicitor will establish the source of the water. It could be a well, spring, borehole, river, stream or lake, or something like a storage tank. It is further important that your conveyancing solicitor determines the water quality, any health risks and if you have a responsibility to contribute to any costs for the maintenance, repair and general upkeep of the private water source.

Is the property connected to main sewage?
Like with mains water connectivity, a number of properties in England and Wales are not connected to mains sewerage. Instead the property is connected to a septic tank, cesspit or sewage treatment plant. Such off mains sewage arrangements are more common in older or more rural areas. Each type of system go hand in hand with their own set of regulations, laws, responsibilities and obligations to ensure they operate correctly and reduce any risk of contamination of the local environment. If your property is found to be connected to one of the off-mains systems, then your conveyancer solicitor will need to establish the full facts including any rights and Deeds for the sewage connectivity, how far your maintenance obligations extend and any financial implications to you. 

In some cases, foul water and surface water can be handled differently and not always all to a mains network.

Do water mains or public sewers pass through or near to the boundaries of the property?
If water or sewer pipes pass through the boundaries of your property, the local water authority can require access to your land or property in order to carry out inspections, repairs or maintenance of the water courses. In some cases, the responsibility for repair of any damage as part of this falls to you as the owner. The presence of such pipework on your land can also have an impact on any development of the land that you may wish to carry out.

There are also instances where a property has been developed by its current owner who was not  aware, or had forgotten, that mains drainage ran through the boundaries of the property. For example an extension or conservatory may have been erected during the period of ownership. Current statutory rules mean that no construction can be carried out usually within 3 metres of such a sewer. If a property owner intends on carrying out an extension to a property with drains running through its boundaries (with relevant planning permission in place), before any construction work can commence, a careful survey of the land must be carried out to identify the precise location of the above public sewer. In the event, it is discovered that building works proposed fall on or within 3 metres of the sewer, the owner must first obtain a build over agreement from the water company, before commencing any work. It is worth noting that there is no legal requirement that makes it a mandatory obligation for the water company to grant you the build over agreement.

If it is found that work has been carried out on a property you wish to purchase, but no build over agreement obtained, then your conveyancer will need to discuss the implications with you and negotiate relevant indemnity insurance with the seller of the property.

Do I need a Drainage and Water Search?

The short answer is yes. Property searches are always recommended by conveyancing solicitors due to the vital pieces of information they reveal. It is also important that the search carried out is up to date as information held by the Local Authority changes regularly.

If you are purchasing your property using mortgage finance, then searches a not optional. Your lender will insist that some property searches are carried out.  Which searches these are depend on the lender and property, however in most cases, a drainage and water search is one of them.

If plan to buy in cash, then searches are optional but it should be carefully considered before deciding against the searches. It is always recommended for older properties or those in rural areas, not least due to the risk of the property not being connected to mains sewerage facilities.

In some cases, and more recently, indemnity insurance can be obtained in place of searches. This is very dependent on your mortgage lender and in the majority of cases require the conveyancer to legally confirm that they are not aware of any issues which may affect the property, that would be revealed on the search. In practice, conveyancing solicitors are unable to conclusive ascertain this without seeing the search results and so indemnity insurance may not be realistic option.

In Summary

Whilst you may feel a drainage and water search is an unnecessary expense, it is best practice to ensure that you have all the most up to date information about the property you are purchasing so that there are no nasty surprises once you are living in your home. This is especially so especially if purchasing an urban or modern property, where it is likely it is connected to mains as it would be easy to make understandable assumptions about the drainage and water networks at the property.

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