On a basic level every home owner owns and is currently responsible for the private drains serving their property up to the connection into the main sewer. However this is set to change as from October 1st 2011. Homeowners will remain responsible for external private drains that only serve their property and that exist within the boundaries of their property, as well as the internal pipes and plumbing. The change is in respect of any drainage pipes falling outside the homeowner’s boundary or which are shared by more than one property, ownership of which will be transferred to the relevant water company. The precise extent of the drainage system throughout England and Wales affected by the changes is unknown but there is no doubt that the water companies will be taking on a significant amount of additional risk and liability. This all sounds good news for homeowners: surely with the water companies taking on the risk there will be a cost saving to the homeowner if anything goes wrong, not necessarily so. There is an argument that most drainage system defects are covered by home insurance. If the risk and cost of works is handed over to the water companies there will be a rise in the water rates which is unlikely to be matched by an equivalent reduction in the insurer’s premium and so the homeowner will end up paying more. There is also a suggestion that the water companies are overstretched and suffer from administrative bureaucracy which will result in a poor service being provided as compared to the private contractors instructed by the insurers. Will the water companies share the same urgency as a homeowner to sort the problem? Time will tell as to whether the fears are realised, however there is no chance of the changes being blocked… unlike your drain.