What to do if an extension is built over a sewer without permission

It is not uncommon for a public sewer to be situated within a property’s boundaries. If you have built an extension over or close to a public sewer, there are some permissions you must have been granted before starting work. If you do not have these, your extension built over the sewer without permission is against the law.

By law, you are required to enter into a Build Over Agreement with the sewage or water provider. Read on to learn more from the experts at Lanes Group about how this may affect you and your property, as well as how the rules have changed.

Water authority responsibilities

A law was approved in October 2011 that stated responsibility for pre-existing private and newly-built sewers were to be handed over to water authorities in the area in which they are located. These water agencies have a legal duty to preserve these public sewers, meaning they are legally allowed to enter your property where the pipes are located to undertake maintenance work.

If there is a sewer pipe that runs through your garden, your water authority has the right to come on to your land if it needs to be replaced or repaired. Also, anyone who wishes to build over or within 3 metres to a public sewer must obtain permission from the water authority first.

What is a Build Over Agreement?

A Build Over Agreement is laid out by the water authority. This outlines there would be no negative effects from undertaking work over or within 3 metres of a public sewer. It also ensures the water authority can access the sewer in the future for maintenance and repair work.

If you have built an extension over a sewer without having a Build Over Agreement in place, the water authority has the right to get rid of any structures that prevent entry to public sewers. Also, the water authority is not responsible for any damage caused.

Many homeowners are not aware that a public sewer is underneath these structures. If you want to expand your property, you must locate where the sewer pipes are before work begins. 

I don’t have a Build Over Agreement – what happens next?

If you have built over the sewer pipes without permission after October 2011, there are several options you can take to resolve the matter and avoid the potential risk of the water company having to demolish part of your extension.

These are as follows:

  1. Speak to the water company and acquire retrospective authorisation for the work. There are no guarantees that you will be given consent. Also, they may ask you to make adjustments to your property, which could lead to substantial expenses.
  2. Get legal indemnity insurance to cover you against monetary loss suffered as a result of the extension being built without asking for permission first. This option is much faster and cheaper than traditional consent. However, it is not as advantageous as actually obtaining consent in the first place.

Both of these options are feasible substitutes in place of a Build Over Agreement if you did not obtain permission when building your extension. It is crucial to have these in mind, especially if you decide to sell your property in the future.

This is because building an extension over a public sewer can cause problems in a house sale. You will find most mortgage providers do not accept it, which means that having an alternate arrangement in order will be necessary.

Extensions built prior to October 2011

If you built an extension over a public sewer prior to October 2011, a Build Over Agreement would not be needed as long as the pipe was private. The laws passed in October 2011 predominantly applied to pipes that connect from a property directly into a public sewer. The public sewer may have been located along the back of your property or public highway.

This means that any pipes that directly link from the property to the main pipes are more than likely private. If an extension was built over the pipes, this means they stayed private and there was no legal obligation for a Build Over Agreement. It’s important to determine when the extension was built to check whether you needed a Built Over Agreement at the time.

If you have an extension built over a sewer without permission, you must either contact the water authority to obtain consent for the work, or obtain legal indemnity insurance.

Find out more

For support and advice on how a future building project may affect your drains, get in touch with Lanes today. You can read more about our drain surveys, or give us a call on 0800 526 488 to see how we can help you.