A drainage engineer repairing a broken pipe.
Do you own a property? Perhaps you’re a developer or a homeowner, mulling over the idea of extending your property. Yet, there’s a catch.
You’re standing on a sewer line. Now, you’re asking yourself, “What will happen if I build over this sewer without permission?” Well, this article is just for you. It seeks to highlight the legal implications of such actions and how to avoid them.


Overview of Building Over a Sewer without Permission

Let’s start from the basics. What does it mean to build over a sewer line? It means constructing a structure or extensions on an area where there is an existing sewer line. It’s a delicate matter. It could lead to sewer damage, environmental hazards, and property loss. More so, it’s illegal without prior approval from the relevant authorities.
It is common sense, really. Sewers are crucial for sanitation and health. They also demand regular maintenance and repair.
Therefore, building directly above them can pose severe challenges to their accessibility, functionality, and integrity. Yet, many property owners build over them, obliviously or deliberately, escalating risks and inviting legal repercussions.
Finally, sewer lines are typically owned and managed by local authorities or private companies. Therefore, any construction activities involving them must get due approval. So before you start mapping out that beautiful extension, stop.
Think. Do you have the necessary permissions? If not, you might want to reconsider.

Legal Authorities Responsible for Sewer Regulations

There are a host of legal entities dedicated to regulating sewer and drainage systems. For one, local councils are a prime player. They establish by-laws and regulations related to building and development activities.
Secondly, there’s the Environmental Agency. They oversee the management of sewage systems and their impact on the environment.
Their approval is often necessary for any construction activity that might affect sewage lines.
Then, there are Water and Sewerage Companies (WASCs). In many jurisdictions, they own and manage the public sewer systems.
Their permission is paramount for any building over a sewer. They’re also in charge of enforcing regulations surrounding this matter.

Legal Consequences for Building over a Sewer without Permission

Civil Litigation
If you build over a sewer without permission, you could face civil litigation. The entity that owns the sewer line may sue for damages. This could result in a hefty financial penalty.
Criminal Prosecution
In some jurisdictions, building over a sewer without permission is a criminal offence. You could end up with a criminal record, and this could have far-reaching consequences on your personal and professional life.
Courts could also issue injunctions stopping any further construction activities. Such an order may demand demolishing any structures you’ve built over the sewer, leaving you at a significant loss.

Penalties for Building Over a Sewer without Permission

Fines, fines, and more fines. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when considering penalties for building over a sewer without permission. These fines can vary widely, depending on the extent of the violation and the damage done.
Next, there’s the cost of rectification. This involves any work needed to remedy the violation, such as demolishing the illegal structure or repairing any damaged sewer lines. This can be a significant financial burden.
Lastly, you might need to pay for any harm caused to third parties. For instance, if your actions led to sewage overflow affecting neighbouring properties, you could be liable for the clean-up costs and any related health issues.

Impact on Property Owners

Building over a sewer without permission can bring about drastic effects on property owners. For starters, it may lead to a devaluation of their property. If there’s known risk or actual damage to the sewer, this can make the property less appealing to potential buyers.
Moreover, there’s the risk of property damage. Damage to the sewer can cause backflows and floods that can lead to significant structural damage to the property. This could mean a massive repair bill for the property owner.
Lastly, such illegal actions can lead to issues with their insurance provider. Most insurance companies exclude coverage for illegal activities. Any damage incurred due to building over a sewer may therefore not be covered, leaving the owner to foot the bill.

Environmental Safe-Guarding Regulations

Environmental regulations are in place to protect the environment from harmful activities. Building over a sewer without permission can severely impact the environment. It can lead to sewage leaks and contamination of soil and water bodies.
In addition, such actions can disrupt the natural ecological balance. It can affect the habitat of various species, leading to a decrease in biodiversity. Such harm to the environment can attract heavy penalties and legal sanctions.
Finally, these regulations also stress on the need for sustainable development. Building over a sewer without due permission is a disregard for such principles. It depicts a lack of responsibility towards the environment and the community at large.

Building Regulations for Sewer Drainage

Building regulations are clear on the issue of sewer drainage. They require all buildings to have suitable provisions for sewer drainage. Failure to adhere to these rules can lead to serious consequences.
The regulations also outline the requirements for building over or near sewers. They stipulate the need for a detailed plan showing the exact location and details of the sewer. This helps in ensuring that the building work does not interfere with the sewer.
Lastly, before starting any work, the builder must obtain written consent from the sewerage undertaker. This approval is subject to several conditions, including provisions for access to the sewer for maintenance and repair.


Steps Towards Legal Compliance

To ensure legal compliance, follow these steps:
  1. Before embarking on any construction work, identify the exact location of the sewer lines on your property.

  2. Obtain a detailed plan of the sewer lines from your local council or WASC. This will help you in planning your construction to avoid interfering with the sewer.

  3. Seek necessary permissions from all the relevant authorities. This may involve submitting your building plans and other relevant documents.

  4. Make sure that you follow all conditions that are laid out in the approved letter. This includes making sure that you can provide access for engineers to carry out inspections, maintenance, and repairs, and take reasonable responsibility and care ensuring that the local authority assets do not become breached or damage the sewer assets, which are publicly owned by your water company.

  5. A before and after CCTV survey will be required on the LWA assets by a professional company with specialist equipment, confirming the conditions and that it is structurally sound after the completion of your build.



In conclusion, building over a public or privately owned LWA assets without obtaining the correct permission is a severe breach in the law, which could lead to a court case with legal proceedings against, and possible a criminal prosecution.
If it is found that a misconnection has occurred and this has caused an environmental issue, damage to the LWA assets or your insurance company refusing cover.
To avoid any confusion, it is recommended to always obtain the correct advice and to follow all guidelines. It has been known that building works have been demolished because the LWA or landowners have obtained a court order for the demolition because the correct permission was never obtained.

Important Notice
Avoid Court Proceedings, Fines & Possible Prosecution

Get A CCTV Drain Survey Before & After Your Building Project and Remember, Obtain The Correct Permissions For Build Over.