Water mains and sewage - what to check before buying a home

Updated: October 16, 2018

When buying a house, water and sewage is unlikely to be at the forefront of your mind. But it mustn’t be overlooked – so what do you need to know?

water in sink

What is a water and drainage search?

A Drainage and Water Search (referred to in the conveyancing process as a CON29DW) is something your conveyancing solicitor can carry out for you as part of the conveyancing process.

Your solicitor will contact the water company that supplies the property you wish to buy, then report back on the following questions:

  • 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?

Find you local water company here.

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Is the drainage and water search mandatory? 

If you’re not getting a mortgage you are not obliged to carry out a Drainage and Water search, though it’s advisable to have one done regardless. The search will ensure you won’t encounter any unforeseen issues after you’ve bought the property.

If you are looking to obtain a mortgage, your mortgage lender will very likely insist you have this done before they agree to proceed.
What possible issues might the search reveal?

  • The property isn’t connected to the water or sewer mains: It is rare that a property will have no source of water at all.  If the search reveals this then further enquiries about how water is obtained (e.g. a bore hole) 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.
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What if there’s a water meter?

A water meter will save certain households money; it depends on your circumstances. If for example there will be a large family living in the house with a high consumption of water, it may be that water usage charged at a rateable value (a flat rate depending on the location and size of your property) is less expensive.

If there are fewer of you, a water meter that will charge you depending on exactly how much water you use could be more cost-effective.

The presence or not of a water meter will impact the cost of your water usage, so is definitely worth consideration.

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Could any of this mean pulling out of a purchase?

That depends on what the search uncovers, whether issues can be easily resolved and how willing you are to compromise on certain elements.

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 be make or break.

If you want to extend the property but there are pipes on the land owned by the water company, will you get permission to build?

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.

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

About the author

Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.

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