Property owners will benefit shortly from new regulations coming into effect on 1 October 2011, under which sewerage companies will assume responsibility for additional lengths of sewer and drains beyond those that are currently adopted.

Many properties do not connect directly into a public sewer at present, with their drains running through neighbouring properties (lateral drains) before joining up with other private drains to form sewers, which in turn may pass through additional land before reaching the public sewer. Problems or damage to these pipe works can be costly both to maintain and repair. From October, the lateral drains serving one property, but outside the curtilage or boundary of that property, will become adopted, and maintainable at the expense of the sewerage company as will sewers currently private.

While this will be a benefit where there may be doubts as to the rights to run drains through neighbouring property, there may also be problems for those owners who might wish to extend their property over an area which now includes an adoptive drain. It will be necessary to apply to sewerage companies to request their agreement - a "buildover agreement" - which they may not give. Equally, some owners may already have constructed property over such drains or sewers, but the companies will still adopt these nonetheless.

There are some exceptions, such as private pumping stations or drains or sewers laid in after 1 July 2011, but these will be addressed in later regulations to be made.

Under the regulations, the companies must service notice of their intention to adopt and property owners should have received from the relevant companies in recent weeks a letter containing such notice.

Prospective purchasers should also be aware that the companies may not have immediate knowledge of where these additional drains and sewers run, and should bear this in mind when reading any plans received with a water and drainage search.