Sydney Property Owners Vs Sydney Water: What You Are And Are Not Responsible For At Your Property.
Chances are if you’ve ever gone toe to toe with Sydney Water over a collapsed pipe or wastewater pipe blockage you’ll understand how many conditions need to be met before you, as the homeowner is completely in the clear.
It’s a subject we’re becoming increasingly familiar with at Proximity Plumbing, and this article aims to share a little information about what you as a homeowner, are and are not responsible for when it comes to collapsed pipes and wastewater pipe blockages at your Sydney property.
Why Do Wastewater Blockages Occur?
The most common culprit of wastewater pipe blockages in Sydney is tree roots. Tree roots can enter your pipe system through even the tiniest of cracks to seek out, feed and grow on the nutrient-rich water and waste. As they grow (and they grow fast) they will fill up your pipes with a thick and intricate network of roots, steadily slowing down your drainage and ultimately making it near impossible for anything to pass through your pipes. At that point, you will have a chronic problem and blockage on your hands.
Signs of a tree root blockage can be:
- slow drainage
- gurgling noises in sanitary drains
- odour/smelly drains in your home and property
Flushing the wrong things down the toilet can also cause wastewater pipe blockages. The only things you should EVER flush down the loo are the 3 Ps: pee, poo and [toilet] paper. Stay clear of ‘flushable’ wipes (the gripe of all plumbers) which are indeed not flushable and can lead to substantial fatbergs being created within your pipe system.
If you are looking to plan and plant a leafy green garden, we suggest investigating where your wastewater pipes are on your property. A sewerage service diagram will show you. (If you don’t have one, you can get one online through Sydney Water Tap in).
Try not to plant trees within 6 metres of any wastewater pipes on your property. Your local garden nursery can advise on trees and their root systems or check this list for trees to avoid.
If you have purchased a property where trees are already close to the wastewater pipes, we suggest contacting your local plumber to carry out a CCTV inspection on your pipes and you can see inside the pipes, to investigate whether the tree roots have already taken up residence in your pipes.
If they have, ask your plumber to set up a regular maintenance plan for you or talk to you about pipe relining options (to keep the roots out for good)!
As A Homeowner, What Are You Responsible For?
A property owner is responsible for maintaining all wastewater pipes and fittings between your property and the connection with the Sydney Water wastewater system, including your privately owned pressure sewerage equipment (referred to as your wastewater system).
It’s a property owner’s responsibility to ensure no rainwater enters your wastewater system.
The point of collection with Sydney Water’s wastewater system may be outside your property. If you do not know where the connection is, you should contact Sydney Water for Information on where to obtain a diagram.
If a fault occurs in your wastewater system, you are responsible for arranging to have the fault rectified by a licensed plumber.
If the fault occurs in Sydney Water’s wastewater system then they will repair the fault at their cost. However, you may be liable to pay for the repair to the extent you have contributed to the fault.
As a free service, Sydney Water may repair collapsed wastewater pipes that form part of your wastewater system where the collapsed is located within a footpath or roadway and a licensed plumber has confirmed that the fault cannot be repaired without excavation on the footpath or roadway and replacement of the collapsed wastewater pipes.
However, if the problem is assessed by Sydney Water and is able to be repaired without excavation, the property owner will remain responsible for the cost of the repair. Sydney Water will not reimburse any plumbing costs. And Sydney Water will not supply this service for unauthorised wastewater systems installed contrary to applicable codes, regulations or guidelines.
In the event of a wastewater pipe blockage; as a property owner, you are responsible for the private wastewater pipes on your property up to and including where they connect to Sydney Water pipes (the connection point). The blockage is likely to be in your private pipes if:
- your neighbours aren’t experiencing a blockage
- your drainage isn’t shared with other properties
- there is no flooding in your local area
- you’re only experiencing an overflow when using water on your property
If this is the case, please contact a licensed plumber to clear the blockage in your pipes.
What Is Sydney Water Responsible For?
Sydney Water is responsible for the wastewater pipes from our network up to the property connection point.
The blockage is likely to be in Sydney Water’s pipes if:
- the overflow is visible beyond your property boundary, for example, from a maintenance hole located on public land
- your neighbours are experiencing the same problem
- there’s widespread flooding in your local area
- you’re experiencing a continuous overflow and you’re not currently using water on your property
If this is the case, please call Sydney Water on 13 20 90 24/7 to report the issue. They’ll send a crew to the site to investigate.
If your property’s been damaged by overflow from Sydney Water’s pipes, they can talk with you about clean-up, repairs and possible alternative accommodation and work with you to process a claim with insurance.
Claims for out-of-pocket expenses
You can claim reasonable out-of-pocket expenses to Sydney Water:
- if you’re a licensed plumber and you’ve found a blockage in Sydney Water’s wastewater pipes
- if you’re a customer and you’ve paid a licensed plumber who found a blockage in Sydney Water’s wastewater pipes.
Please keep in mind that there is a process to follow to be eligible for a Sydney Water reimbursement. Also, plumbers will only be reimbursed by Sydney Water if they have not charged the customer.
Also note: Sydney Water says “We will not reimburse the property owner or the plumber for work to investigate the fault on private wastewater pipes, or for any damages/claims arising from or related to the plumber’s work.”
There are many terms and conditions to the types of repairs that Sydney Water will take responsibility for. One that we see quite often is “repairs on collapsed pipes where the collapse is not under a hard stand surface (‘hard stand’ being pavement, asphalt, bitumen or similar).”
We strongly urge you to download and read this Sydney Water document here.
Keep In Mind, Before You Make A Claim
Before you fill out the claim form, please ensure that:
- Your plumber calls Sydney Water on 13 20 90 to get a job number – this number needs to be included on the form
- You read Sydney Water’s Claiming for wastewater blockages (524 KB) guide
- You have all invoices and supporting documentation ready to attach
- You provide a timesheet or excavation details if the invoice doesn’t give a detailed account of the work completed.
A Note About Road or Footpath Excavations
If your licensed plumber has found that your private sewer pipe (your private service) has collapsed under a public road or footpath, (and Sydney Water verifies that the collapse can’t be repaired without excavating) then Sydney Water may be able to help with the repair through the Collapsed Private Service in Public Land Program (the repair Program).
The repair Program helps residential customers when the only way to repair a collapsed private sewer pipe is to excavate a road or footpath. While the Program is free, it’s only available to eligible customers, and it’s subject to certain conditions. Sydney Water is unable to perform immediate emergency repairs under the Program, so you should contact your private licensed plumber if the issue is urgent.
Licensed plumbers can also source the equipment needed to perform excavations and repairs on private services, and they’re authorised to do this work.
Find out more from the Collapsed Private Services in Public Land Program: Guide for customers (259 KB). You should also read section 8.2 of the Customer Contract (6 MB).
For more information read this Sydney Water Resource here.
Key points to remember:
- As a property owner, you are responsible for the private wastewater pipes on your property up to and including where they connect to Sydney Water pipes (the connection point). This point of connection is sometimes outside your property boundary and can be under a public road. Be aware of where the connection lies!
- Ensure any wastewater pipes you have installed are carried out by a licensed, reputable plumber.
- If you have any questions or issues, we suggest contacting Sydney Water first on 13 20 90. They can send a crew to determine where the blockage is along the pipe and thus, where the responsibility to fix the blockage lies.
- Keep up to date with your home’s plumbing maintenance to avoid any emergency blockages or pipe collapses.