Have you had a letter about sewer adoption?

Most private sewers and drains will automatically be transferred on 1 October 2011 to the ownership of water and sewerage companies, which will take over responsibility for their maintenance.

This will effect all sewers that are connected to the mains but it won't include private treatment plants and septic tanks. It also will not effect sewers and drains that serve one property and are within its boundary.

William Fryzer in Mondaq Business Briefing answers is there a down side?

"In most cases this change will be beneficial to property owners and occupiers as it will clarify the responsibility for maintenance of the pipes and remove the burden from the property owners. Another advantage is that there will be a right to connect to the adopted sewers and drains subject to certain conditions. Water and sewerage bills, of course, will go up to cover the increased costs to the water and sewerage companies, but they estimate the increase will average less than ten pounds a year.

However, the operation of the scheme may be unwelcome if it interferes with existing arrangements for shared drainage on multi-let developments which are working well or if it prevents the use of "lift and shift" provisions which allow for pipes to be diverted to enable future redevelopment to take place. The transfer will also give the water and sewerage companies legal rights to enter private property for access to the pipes."

From the developers perspective, Mike Taylor of Barbers Rural, comments that it could lead to increased cost of drainage works on sites with multiple houses as there will be a higher specification required for adoption. Conversley it could make it easier for developers to tap in to existing sewers which are currently classed as private.

There is no option to opt out, but sewer owners can appeal. Overall it is going to mean higher costs on water bills as Utility companies will have more sewers to maintain.

These new rules come at a time when owners of private treatment plants and septic tanks are required to register their outfalls with the Environment Agency by 31st December 2011. One way or another, most householders are going to be effected by these combined new regulations,