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Severn Trent Adoption of Private Sewers and Lateral Drains

PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 12:48 pm
by madmax
This morning I received a "notice" from Severn Trent Water addressed to "THE OWNER" (caps) stating their intention to take "responsibility" (for this, I read "ownership") of the sewers and/or lateral drains on my property. I'm not too happy with this.

This appears to be a blanket action being rolled-out over this area so I guess there ought to be others looking at the issue. I searched the forum using the search feature and couldn't find anything so, first of all, apologies if it has been dealt with elsewhere.

On reading the notice, although on the face of it it seems quite reasonable the wider consequences of adoption struck me and I realised that this was something of a confidence trick. Also, as Robert Menard said about his own experience, on reading the letter, like a 3D puzzle, what they are doing suddenly became clear to me. I was wondering if anyone else has any useful opinions or if they have already dealt with this matter.

What concerns me is that STW as a private corporation will, effectively, seize ownership of all private sewers (drains) where these are shared in common with neighbours. The consequences to this, IMO would be as follows.

1) Charges for the upkeep and maintenance of what was formerly your property
2) Later provision for and demands for annual or other inspections. Expected to be by contracted 3rd party and at high cost
3) Loss of rights to enjoy your own property. Viz. For many formerly lawful actions you will now need to gain permisson from STW or their successors
4) Consequent to 3) , charges may be applied (just as they now are by councils)
5) Outlawing of simple maintenance which you could have done yourself such as clearing a manhole of debris
6) Charges and penalties (contractual fines) for minor blockages of what were formerly your drains and what you could have cleared yourself at no cost
7) Demands for access to property with penalties and or fines/imprisonment for failure to comply (see 1))
8) Penalties for failure of the householder/tenant to take sufficient care of what is now the property of a corporation
9) Fines and/or imprisonment for damage, alleged "interference" with what was formerly entirely your property.

The notice itself is phrased as a "proposal" and the "3d effect" which struck me was that it is in the form of a contract offer with agreement by acquiescence if the person (?) being notified does not respond by October 2011. There appears also to be "consideration" within the proposal in terms of stated "benefit".
This is actually very sneaky. Although the relevant Act is mentioned (Water Industry Act, Sects 102, 105 and 105B(3)) the proposal still seems to be trying to offer a contract and gain consent.

There is an "appeal" procedure apparently available but I'm not sure that begging is the correct response to what appears to me to be a contract offer.
I can scan and upload the notice if anyone is interested in acquiring a specimen copy (after I remove my personal details)

I had thought of sending a notice back declining the offer of service but was thinking I may need to be careful to respond correctly to avoid inadvertently entering onto a further contract. I am already bound into a contract with STW to provide water and sewerage services but I guess if they were extending an existing obligation they wouldn't be seeking my consent however indirect.

Anyone any opinions on this and the best way to discharge it?

Re: Severn Trent Adoption of Private Sewers and Lateral Drains

PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 1:00 pm
by MikeThomas
This scheme is being rolled out in England and Wales. My letter came yesterday. One to watch methinks :thinks:

Re: Severn Trent Adoption of Private Sewers and Lateral Drains

PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 1:55 pm
by madmax
This reads like stereo instructions. It is almost impenetrable (which, I guess is the intent)

Water Industry Act 1991 - sects. 102, 105A and 105B

Re: Severn Trent Adoption of Private Sewers and Lateral Drains

PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:34 pm
by bandit1
:grin: I've looked into this (made lots of phone calls) and the appeals is a waste of time unless you suffer business financial loss,try proving that one! Even if you did get an exemption, which on a chance scale of 1- 10 is 0, you will still have to pay for the upkeep of all of the other newly adopted drains nationwide through your annual water bill, you've got no choice as its part of there system. Your knackered any which way. I've had all the arguments with my local Severn Trent. The wording of the letter made me laugh "Proposal" when it's already "legislation' so on and so forth. The only thing they were on dodgey ground was with my question :puzz: "If one of my kids ran across my rear lawn and over the manhole cover and slipped over injuring themselves, who is liable? :thinks: I'm still waiting on a reply from there legal department. This basically is another revenue stream for them and they'll be able to lay off some tax with the newly acquired drains/sewers.

Love and peace :hug:

Re: Severn Trent Adoption of Private Sewers and Lateral Drains

PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:40 pm
by jonboy
Slightly off topic I know but:

My friend used to rent a small unit for welding, it had electricity but no water at all. No toilet, no taps, nothing.

He received a bill for "surface drainage" from Severn Trent, they were charging him for "draining" the water that falls from the sky!! You couldnt make it up!

Re: Severn Trent Adoption of Private Sewers and Lateral Drains

PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 3:08 pm
by bandit1
It's the same with all properties Jonboy. You can get round it though,if you put all the rainwater from your property to a soak away, 'on your property', you can then get it taken off your bill. The charge is for the use of their pipe work to take the water away which is fair enough I suppose.
A mate of mine a has a scrap yard with water supplied from Anglian and he hasn't paid a bill for over thirty years. He must have come off there billing list accidentally when he bought the land all those years ago.

Re: Severn Trent Adoption of Private Sewers and Lateral Drains

PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 3:32 pm
by madmax
Thanks for the responses. I intuitively suspected that appealing (begging) would be of little or no use. Begging or petitioning can't discharge contracts AFAIK
I had more in mind of declining the contract offer via formal notice (the notice framed as a "proposal" in the same manner as many other forms of contract offer such as car insurance and marriage).

Reading the act I can see it places under obligation (duty) via their own web of contractual entanglements so STW may be under obligation.

I was thinking of writing back, declining the contract offer and making a reciprocal offer which, as consideration, relieves STW of their obligation to perform under the applicable sections of said act.

Basically "thank you for your kind offer but no thank you and by return I offer you relief of your duty to perform here"

Also, although a section of the act allows an extended period where appeals are granted, the time period for giving notice is shorter. About 2 months tops.

Failure to act would appear to grant them title over the pipework (and presumably associated land) by means of estoppel by acquiescence. Quite sneaky and dishonest when they say - quote "you don't need to do anything" - damn right!

I was explaining it to a relative who worked in car insurance. Imagine a situation where the govt. put an obligation on the local broker to offer car insurance to everyone. I guess it would be more or less the same scenario with insurance (contract) proposals being sent out en-masse and with the public thinking they had to accept.

Re: Severn Trent Adoption of Private Sewers and Lateral Drains

PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 3:43 pm
by madmax
Bandit1 - very interesting. A couple of points I'd note and be a bit more specific on.

I didn't receive a letter I received a "notice". This has specific meaning in law. Also the notice was in the form of a "proposal". As you observe, if it were a done and dusted matter then I can't envisage that they would use this legal mechanism.. Nothing in law happens by accident AFAIK and the contents of the notice will have purpose and meaning. The notice contains an offer and a consideration. It is also constructed precisely to include estoppel if you take no action. Also, there will be a reason why the title was in caps rather than initcaps.

I'm not suggesting that this demonstrates any "get out of jail free" claim at the moment. Just observing that there are avenues of exploration here. Appealing is, as you rightly point out, a waste of time. So is trying to address the proposition using any moral argument. Analysing the proposition is potentially more fruitful as I noted from reading Veronica's book.

Additionally, there's no specific definition within the notice about what constitutes drains or sewers. Does this *IOR/include the land on which they rest? (which is already vested in the crown for everyone (allodial title)) Does it transfer sections of your freehold property into private corporations. I suspect it does. Were it just pipework I'd say, "fine, have it, come take it away and serve notice that any property of theirs which remains after a set date will be charged for". Replacing drainwork is usually cheap as chips for normal 4" soil work (i've done it, even on my own property but would soon be a criminal if I did it again).

*IOR - (a and b, or a and not b, or b and not a) v's XOR (a and not b, or b and not a)

Re: Severn Trent Adoption of Private Sewers and Lateral Drains

PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 3:47 pm
by madmax
In case anyone else is going bozz-eyed looking at the legislation and following this up too, there's this interesting snippet which may also affect the scrap yards and premises in question...

sec 102 - Adoption of Sewers and Disposal Works
"No declaration may be made under this section in respect of any sewer or works the construction of which was completed before 1st October 1937"

Why 1937? Why can't these proposals be applied there?

Re: Severn Trent Adoption of Private Sewers and Lateral Drains

PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:15 pm
by bandit1
Max,your on the money there is no definition however there is the diagram on the back! I asked Seven Trent for a definition and they just referred me to the diagram. It makes sense when you look at the diagram, but they would not say who would be responsible for the benching, pointing and retainer and cover of the drain itself. The only thing they did say was that the pipe-work, after they have possession of it, would be know as a 'sewer'.