How are water mains and sewage checked when buying a home?

Disconnected or damaged water mains, septic tanks and other issues can be costly. Drains could affect your extension plans. What can you check before buying?

water in sink

What is a CON29DW Drainage and Water Search?

When buying a home, your conveyancing solicitor will carry out various property searches, including a CON29DW - Drainage and Water Search.

The CON29DW is a formal Law Society search that gives critical information regarding water and
sewerage services for the property you intend to buy.

The search will reveal any potential risks that could affect the value, title and potential maintenance costs of your new home

Your solicitor will submit the CON29DW search to the water company that supplies the property and then report back to you with the results.

The CON29DW includes questions like:

  • Who is responsible for drainage at the property?
  • Where does the water supply come from?
  • Is the house connected to a public sewer system?
  • Are there any water mains or sewers at the property?
  • How close to the property are the public water mains and sewers?
  • Is there a water meter?
  • Are there any issues with water pressure?

You can find the local water supplier for the home you are buying here.

Is the search mandatory?

If you’re not getting a mortgage you do not have to have a Drainage and Water Search. As a cash buyer, it would still be advisable to have the search, however, as it ensures you won’t encounter any unforeseen issues with water and drainage after you move in.

If you are buying with a mortgage, most lenders will insist on a search before they agree to lend on the property.

What issues could the search reveal?

  • The property isn’t connected to the water or sewer mains: It is rare, but not unheard of, for a property to have no source of water at all. If the search reveals this, then further enquiries about how water is obtained (e.g. a borehole) will be made.
    Also, you can contact the relevant water company to discuss options and costs of connecting the property before you commit to buying it.
  • Public water drains or pipes on the property: you may need permission from the water company to carry out renovations or extensions.
    If any public pipes have been built over already, or new pipes have been laid, your conveyancing solicitor can request the legal paperwork to demonstrate the necessary permission for this.
  • Who is responsible for what: it could be you who will be expected to manage and maintain a septic tank, or other private disposal facilities at the property.

What if there’s a water meter?

Depending on your usage requirements, a water meter can save certain households money. Water meters are typically more cost-effective for smaller households with lower requirements.

Larger families with high consumption needs may end up paying more than they would on a flat rate.

The CON29DW will reveal whether there is a water meter enabling you to plan and budget accordingly.

Could the search result prompt a buyer to pull out?

Depending on the issue uncovered by the search and a prospective buyer's willingness to contend with the issue, it is not unheard of for a buyer to withdraw from a purchase.

A water and sewerage issue might be relatively easy and affordable to resolve. On the other hand, it might require you to compromise for as long as you inhabit the property.

If you don’t want the responsibility and expense of sewage disposal, for example, ascertaining whether the property can be connected to the mains could affect your decision to proceed with the purchase.

If you want to extend the property over water pipes owned by the water company, will you be able to get permission to build the extension?

You can discuss the results of the drainage and water search with your conveyancing solicitor, and weigh up the degree to which it could impact any plans you have for the property.

Your next step

If you are buying, selling, remortgaging or transferring equity in a home, we can help you find an expert conveyancing solicitor.

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Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Author:
Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher