Repair or cleansing of drains connected to a property.

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Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council is not responsible for clearing or repairing drains.

The law covering Drains and Sewers changed on the 1st October 2011 when the ownership of certain drainage/sewerage pipes to the Statutory Sewage Undertakers.

What is the difference between drains and sewers.

  • A drain is a pipe that serves just one property or curtilage. A block of flats would be regarded as one curtilage.
  • A lateral drain is a drain that is not within the boundary of the property/curtilage that it serves, i.e. a drain that goes on to someone else's land.
  • A sewer is a pipe that serves more than one property/curtilage. Thus, when two drains combine, they become a sewer.
  • We have produced a Householders guide to Drain and Sewers leaflet .

Who is responsible?

As drains serve just one property/curtilage and are within that property's/curtilage's boundary, they are the responsibility of that property. This is typically one house, but it may also be a block of flats. In the latter case, the Management Company or owner of the block is responsible.

Although lateral drains also serve just one property or curtilage, they go on to someone else's land. Lateral drains are the responsibility of the Statutory Sewage Undertaker for the area concerned.

Sewers are the responsibility of the Statutory Sewage Undertaker for the area concerned.

Properties served by Septic Tanks, Cesspits and Self-Contained Sewage Systems will remain the responsibility of the users of those systems, even where these go on to someone else's land.

This flow chart may help in establishing responsibilities.

Who is the Statutory Sewage Undertaker?

Within the vast majority of Tonbridge & Malling Borough, the Statutory Sewage Undertaker is Southern Water. The exceptions to this are the areas of Fairseat and Stansted. Southern Water can be contacted on 08452 780845 or via their website at

Fairseat and Stansted are covered by Thames Water. Thames Water can be contacted on 08459 200800 or via their website at

You should contact your respective Statutory Sewage Undertaker if you have problems with your Lateral Drain or Sewer.

General Advice to Help Prevent Blockages

  • Do not pour fats, oils or grease down drains; this is often the cause of blockages. Wipe pans with kitchen roll or pour out the fat into another container and wait for it to congeal before disposing of it in the bin.
  • Do not put feminine hygiene products, facial wipes or baby toiletry items (e.g. wipes and disposable nappies) down the toilet. They don't break up like toilet paper and can cause a blockage in the pipe.
  • Only use the recommended amount of washing powder, as this can build up along the inside of the pipe, reduce its diameter and eventually block up.
  • Do not put artex, cement, rubble, glue, plaster, render, etc. down the sink or outside gulleys. It will harden in the pipe and can cause blockages.
  • Do not bury your manhole cover. If you pave or put decking over it, you may have to rip it all out to gain access to the manhole.
  • Make sure any manholes or gullies have their covers on. Missing covers will allow unusual items to fall into the pipe and cause a blockage.
  • Periodically check your kitchen gulley for fatty deposits and remove any build up. This can save you a lot of money later on.

What legal action can the council take?

If you have a problem with drains, septic tanks, cesspits or self-contained sewage treatment systems You must first try to reach agreement with the others users of the system as to who will pay for and carry out the work.

If no agreement can be reached the council can serve formal notice on all parties involved.

The notice is designed to prevent Statutory Nuisance and/or risks to Public Health. It gives a specified time within which defined works need to be carried out to resolve the matter. If the works are not carried out within the time specified, then the Council may carry out the works themselves and bill each responsible party for a share of the total cost of the works. This cost will also include administrative and other costs incurred by the Council.

The Council has no statutory powers to require Southern Water to maintain and repair its sewerage system. However, Southern Water operates a complaints procedure and this may be used by a home owner to resolve a dispute. Alternatively, complaint may be made to Ofwat, who can be contacted on 0121 644 7500, via email to, of via post to Ofwat, Centre City Tower, 7 Hill Street, Birmingham B5 4UA.

Contact us

If you need further information on repairs or cleansing of household sewers and drains please contact us.