FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Private Drains – Things you need to know
Many people are shocked when issued with notices to repair drains that may not even be within the boundaries of their property. Shock can turn to horror when the Council (Auckland City) adds its investigation costs to the cost of the repair.
This is an article designed to provide a little insight about how to avoid private drain problems.
What is a private drain?
A private drain is all drainage systems (sewage and stormwater) constructed privately to service a single or small number of properties. A PRIVATE DRAIN DOES NOT HAVE TO BE ON THE OWNERS PROPERTY.
Who owns a private drain?
The owner of the property or properties served by the private drain also own the private drain(s). If the drain also lies under other properties, there should be an easement to allow access for maintenance.
Who is responsible for the maintenance of private drains?
The owner of the property or properties served by the private drain is responsible for its maintenance up to and including the connection to the public line.
Where are my private drains?
The private drainage records Auckland City holds are available from front of house at Auckland City Environments, 35 Graham St, Auckland City. Records may be held electronically, on microfiche, or on paper. Many older properties have only limited (in some cases no) information held. Confusion often arises about who the owner of the drain is if the problem is in a private common line serving a number of cross leased properties. In such instances the owner of all of the properties served by the common line are jointly responsible for all of the costs of maintenance and repair. If no single owner undertakes to organise the repair on behalf of the other owners Council will have its own contractors repair the drain and split the charge equally between the owners. Sometimes the connection point to a public line can be underneath a berm or even a public road. You are responsible for the repair of the drain, even if the source of the problem is underneath the road.
What problems can occur with private drains?
Problems are many and varied, but usually a drain will break or block because of tree root damage or land subsidence. Sometimes drains are damaged because of developments in the area. Older tile drains are much more likely to fail than newer plastic ones.
The cause of the problem does not have to be associated with your property. It could, for example, be related to a tree on the neighbours property. However,you will still be held responsible for fixing the drain. If you wish to persue compensation with the neighbour, that will be a civil matter between you and the other party.
Often a drainage problem creates a nuisance at some point remote from the site of the problem itself. For example, a broken sewer behind your new retaining wall may be discovered by the presence of sewage on your neighbours property.
What can I do to minimise future maintenance costs?
First, find out where your private drains are and where they connect to the public lines. Also find out the whereabouts of any manholes or inspection points. Knowing where they are and keeping them accessible will make maintenance quicker and therefore cheaper. If your drain is an older tile drain it will attract roots from nearby trees or shrubs. Be aware of the location of these plants and if you can remove them, do so. If there is development going on nearby or around your drain, take particular interest to ensure the drain is adequately protected and that the developers are aware of the whereabouts of the drain. While you may be able to claim for damages if a developer damages your drain, it will always be cheaper and easier to work with the developers to avoid damages in the first place.