Most buyers when purchasing a property will have a survey carried out, whether it be a valuation survey arranged by their mortgage company, a Home Buyers Survey or a Structural Survey. There are many options available and a specialist surveyor would be able to advise on the type required.

However, whilst most buyers will have one of the above carried out, very few consider what lies beneath the property as this can be a case of “out of sight and out of mind”.  

Older properties need to be surveyed more intensely and whilst buyers focus on what they can see in front of them, a lot of serious issues can involve damaged or broken drains which may cause damp and possible subsidence over a period of time. Not all buildings insurance will cover this sort of damage and it is advised that buyers check their insurance policies carefully before commencing with their chosen cover.

Some of the problems that can occur especially in properties constructed during the 1950s through to the 1970s have pitch fibre drains. The lifespan of these drains is usually around 40 years. These were used instead of the usual clay ones as they were made from cheaper material and were quicker to install. It was not apparent at that time that when they were exposed to water, oil and chemicals, the pitch fibre was a permeable material which would then blister and crack. Over time they could collapse which could then lead to major drainage problems such as root ingress and blockages with toilets and washing machines, combined with a foul odour.  

Properties that connect to a septic tank or cesspit would also benefit from having a Drainage Survey, as this would show if they were working efficiently, especially as these types of properties are affected by the government’s General Binding Rules and Septic Tank Regulations 2020 www.gov.uk/guidance/general-binding-rules-small-sewage-discharge-to-the-ground  but this is another subject entirely!

So “what are the benefits of a drainage survey” I hear you ask? 

Firstly, a specialist company would be able to carry out a CCTV survey on the drains. This would show a clear picture with a high-definition camera on the end of a flexible wire. This is fed into the drains and guided through the pipes to allow the operator to get a detailed look. It not only shows the operator what is happening live but records the journey, so you have photos and a report at the end of the survey.

Repairs and replacement drains can run into thousands of pounds and a Drainage Survey is a small price to pay to avoid large expenditure later especially if your insurance company will not cover this.  

If any issues are then revealed, the purchase price for the property could then be either renegotiated with the seller or the sellers carry out the work before contracts are exchanged. However, whilst the repair works would benefit the property concerned if the neighbouring properties where the drains link up to are also in a state of collapse and disrepair then works would also need to be carried out to them as well.

WBW Solicitors has property experts in all of their nine offices across the South West. If you would like to discuss any aspect of a property transaction or just want some advice whilst we are in lockdown please contact suzyseaby@wbw.co.uk or visit our property page.