Shared drainage problem

Shared drainage problem

Postby Geranium » Fri Nov 06, 2015 3:59 pm

I live in a Victorian terraced cottage, two up two down with a ground floor bathroom extension – my neighbours’ cottage is the same. Between the two bathroom extensions we each have a brick and timber ‘lean to’ which form a party wall.

The two cottages were originally served by one external drain which links to the sewer in the alleyway at the back of the cottages, and which is now situated inside my lean to. Next door’s pipework for washing machine, dishwasher and kitchen sink cuts through the party wall and discharges into the drain inside my property.

The drainage pipe which runs beneath my lean to is not terribly big in diameter, is prone to blocking which not infrequently results in a flood if I don’t happen to be around to stop it. I have lived here for 18 years and whilst the drain has always blocked periodically, it is now infinitely worse than it has ever been. My neighbours’ washing machine is constantly in use as they have two very small children, and that along with all the other modern appliances is just creating more capacity than it can cope with. I would add that I live alone, do not own a dishwasher, and my usage of both the washing machine and kitchen sink would best be described as ‘light’.

The cost of drain cleaner alone is bankrupting me (!) - and when the blockage gets bad, it's a matter of rolling my sleeves up, getting down on my hands and knees, inserting arm down drainage pipe and removing the 'crud' manually. Great fun. I might add that I’m not that young and there’ll come a time when I may be able to get down there to do the job, but I won’t necessarily be able to get back up again! The flooding, of course, is an even worse problem, but as things stand, I have no option but to grin and bear it.

All of the other cottages in the terrace have renovated and rebuilt their original lean to, and all of them have sorted out the drainage anomalies i.e. those who have needed to have laid their own drainage pipes. They have simply accepted that having bought old properties, this improvement is just one of many that needs to be made.

My neighbours are now refurbishing, reroofing and extending their lean to, and I have requested that they make their own arrangements for discharge of foul water, which they have refused to do. They are planning to raise the floor level inside their lean to, and it would seem to be an opportune time to lay their own drainage pipe to join up with the sewer in the alleyway which runs across the back of the cottages.

My current neighbours have been living here for 3 years, but as the drainage arrangement has been in situ for many more years than that, would it be the case that they could rightfully claim a prescriptive easement? No mention is made in my house deeds of any formal arrangement. Is it even legal to discharge foul water into an open drain in someone else’s property?

I have a feeling I may be stuck with this problem, but would be very grateful for guidance and opinions. Many thanks!
Geranium
 
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby span » Fri Nov 06, 2015 4:26 pm

Yeah, you're stuck.

What's in your lean to? Can it be removed or can it stand a flooding? I.e. could you let the drain back up into their property a few times? It might concentrate their minds, because at the moment they don't have a problem, they have you sorting everything out for them.
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby Geranium » Fri Nov 06, 2015 4:59 pm

In the lean to - washing machine sitting under counter top, along with drawer units where I store hand tools, garden tools etc - all sorts of utility bits and pieces. Shelving on the walls, loads of plants everywhere. The flooring is vinyl, but in very poor condition as there is no point replacing it. I have a large kitchen mat down which of course gets saturated every time I get flooded - I sling it over the washing line and hose it down. It's a utility/'garden room', really - I overwinter tender plants in there as well.

I am planning to speak to the neighbours this weekend, and if another appeal to their decency makes no difference, I shall ask them how they propose to resolve my problem. Perhaps if I suggest that next time for the sake of fairness I will siphon the water back through the holes in the wall, it might concentrate their minds somewhat. To physically do so would be difficult, and I don't know that I could bring myself to do it anyway! But I understand your thinking - perhaps if they were made to contemplate the realities of the situation I'm in, it might make them more amenable.

It's highly unlikely that they will have a clue about prescriptive easements - or would take time to investigate the legalities of the situation - but that doesn't really help very much, does it? It just leaves me in the position that I can't insist that they sort things out. :( :(
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby despair » Fri Nov 06, 2015 6:48 pm

If they are altering /extending /raising floor levels they need building regulatiuons

I do not think current scenario complies with that nor do I think new arrangements will either

Go and speak quietly to Building Regs officer and see what he suggests
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby Geranium » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:22 pm

I've already been in touch with Building Control - as far as they're concerned, it's just a case of shared drainage common in many old properties. Apparently there is a chance that under new regs introduced in 2011, my water authority would install a bigger drain under my property so that it would stop blocking - but that would probably need me to suffer several more flooding incidents which I could call them out to in order to remove the blockage. After that they might consider doing the work. Fabulous, eh? I have to get inundated with foul water, then have to suffer having part of my home dug up, just so that there's a bigger drain which my neighbours can use until kingdom come. Along with the aggro of the blockages and the flooding, the sound of water constantly discharging into my home gets very wearing. These are tiny little cottages, and I can hear it wherever I happen to be.

I doubt my neighbours will inform Building Control of the work they are having done, and I'm not prepared to shop them. I have to live cheek by jowl with them and I just want to live in peace with my garden and my cats!

I'd rather find a way to manoeuvre them into doing something - and that's on the assumption that there really are no legalities that I can wave under their noses which it seems there are not. Thanks for the reply, anyway - and also yours, span. :)
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby MacadamB53 » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:40 pm

Hi Geranium,

is there any reason a new drain can't be laid which doesn't run under your property?

Kind regards, Mac
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby COGGY » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:49 pm

Hi

Have you discussed this with your Water Authority? They may well be very helpful to you. I get the impression that you are no longer "young". While I do not hold with playing the victim card,in this case a little request for help, stating that you are no longer able to deal with the problem due to age, may be all to the good. It cannot make the situation any worse so is worth a try. Good luck.
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby Geranium » Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:11 pm

Macadam - no there's nowhere other than underneath my lean to to connect with the sewer in the ROW which runs along the back of the cottages. I would have to be dug up internally, so to speak! :shock: :mrgreen:

And Coggy - I'm 64, but even if the water authority was sympathetic, it would still mean that my home would be disrupted and I'd still have my neighbours's dirty water discharging into my house. Obviously, the flooding would stop, and that would be a huge bonus. Maybe if I get to the point where I have to accept things as they are, I might decide that discretion is the better part of valour and see if I can get some help.

Bit fed up, really. :( :D
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby Collaborate » Sat Nov 07, 2015 12:23 am

The cost of unblocking/any repairs should be shared between you of course. Perhaps you ought to start sending them a bill for your out of pocket expenses.
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby cleo5 » Sat Nov 07, 2015 11:20 am

Geranium,
Your neighbour is very fortunate to have you next door.
That type of nuisance is more than most folk would tolerate.
Perhaps it is time for you to contact the Environmental health Officer as well as the water board.
However much you want to keep neighbourly relations cordial you cannot go on living with either the noise or the possible health hazard. Nor can you be expected to clean out the drain caused by overflow from next door.

Is it possible to have a chat with neighbour and show him/her what is happening and explain you can no longer be expected to clear up the mess or bear the cost of any flood damage.
Once they realise the extent of the problem the neighbours might be prepared to re think the instaalation of new drain.
I think it is illegal for them to allow any discarge of water or such into your property.
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby despair » Sat Nov 07, 2015 11:36 am

Stop allowing these sleaze ball neighbours to walk all over you
They are causing damage , nuiscance but above all an environmental health hazard
If they ever want to sell their house they have to get building regs and maybe even planning

Get a concerned friend to do the reporting .raising the issue with authority
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby Collaborate » Sat Nov 07, 2015 11:44 am

cleo5 wrote:I think it is illegal for them to allow any discarge of water or such into your property.


Really? Through a shared drain? I think not.

Our neighbour recently had the water board out to clear a collapsed drain at the front, within their boundary. It was repaired free of charge because it also took a small amount of rainwater from our gutters, and so was a shared drain.

Would be worthwhile speaking to your local water company.
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby Geranium » Sat Nov 07, 2015 12:37 pm

Cleo - yes, I know - you'd think they'd be buying bunches of flowers for me what with me being such a paragon of virtue! :wink:

I've had flashpoints with these two, but generally speaking I've managed to keep relations on an even keel. This really is quite a claustrophobic little neighbourhood, and it's best to remain civilised if one is to lead a relatively peaceful life. For instance, if I step outside my back door at exactly the same time as my neighbour, we are quite literally face to face. Being at complete loggerheads would make life utterly miserable.

I get on OK with Mr Next Door, much less so with his monumentally stupid wife. We've had a few words over the garden - my garden, that is. For some obscure reason she believes any shrubs planted along my boundary are for her to prune as and when she sees fit - and we're not talking about overhang, as I make sure that ALL of my shrubs remain within my boundaries. She gets in an absolute lather when I prune - it's a mixed hedge, and so I'm taking the secateurs to one part or another throughout spring to late autumn and winter in some cases. Like I said, stupid - and she doesn't half like getting her own way! I blame the parents...... :mrgreen:

Yes, I shall be talking at length to Mr Next Door to give him a full low down on the problem, although he does know that the drain blocks. Mrs Next Door also knows because she has been around this year when I've been flooded out, and has seen me hosing down the kitchen flooring outside. Whether she's bothered to talk to her other half, I don't know. I'm certainly guilty of being stupid enough to have assumed that when the extension went ahead that they would follow the example of the rest of the neighbourhood and sort their drainage out.

Contemplate /Despair - you're right, Collaborate. As it's a shared drain, it isn't illegal and if they want to carry on with what they're doing, I don't have a leg to stand on. I think I have to go down the blackmail route - i.e. next time the drain blocks, I'll rip their pipes out of the party wall so that the washing machine/dishwasher discharges into their new extension. I will certainly put it to them that this, essentially, is what's happening to me and as they have now been here for 3 years, I shall indulge in the pipe ripping scenario every time there's a blockage between now and November 2018, just to even things up. That's fair, isn't it?

By the way, I'm not a pushover. I'm actually extremely assertive, but I would rather use stealth and outflank someone as opposed to reporting them, or whatever. I shan't let this drop and yes, I had planned to speak to Environmental Health next week. Posting on here was really about confirmation that this was indeed a prescriptive easement - and of course having read this forum for quite some time, I know that posters are always ready with advice, support and suggestions and that in itself is a comfort. So thank you one and all!

By the way, I started reading here when my previous neighbours (oh how I miss them!) had problems with neighbours on the other side of them and I undertook a fact finding mission on their behalf. That turned into a really nasty situation, so I have first hand experience of living in a badly fractured community which is why I need to hold my tongue (never easy) and keep the peace while I try and negotiate my way through this lot
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby span » Sat Nov 07, 2015 12:47 pm

stealth and outflank


Oh good. Time for some fun then.

But first, just to clarify the layout and situation 100% in my mind, can you access the point at which their pipes enter the drain in your property - also, make a stick pen and paper sketch, photo it and put it up here showing the boundaries, entry/exit points of pipes etc.

I'm beginning to wonder what would happen if (by some strange chance) their pipes became, I dunno, "blocked", somehow, before the discharge point into the drain.

Could that happen?
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Re: Shared drainage problem

Postby Collaborate » Sat Nov 07, 2015 1:09 pm

If it blocks again is there any way in which you can stop it up your side so that the blockage causes their drains to back up too? Or is that logistically impossible?
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