How can I get my terrace neighbours to share the cost of drain maintenance?

Property Clinic: As a pensioner on a small income, I’m not prepared to bear most of the cost

The cost of the pipe repair   is   estimated at €2,800. Photograph: iStock

The cost of the pipe repair is estimated at €2,800. Photograph: iStock

 

I have lived in a terrace of six houses, five of which are rentals, for 33 years. Up until three years ago, there were no issues regarding the drain but since then I have had it cleared out annually at a cost of about €200. This means I ask the landlords to contribute their share of the cost.

With one exception, I have to send on average three requests. I sometimes feel like a beggar. I discovered that the exit pipe is broken due to, some respect, the amount of fat being put down the sink. I think I have sorted this behaviour out, but the damage is done.

I’ve got an estimate of €2,800 to repair the pipe but, if the effort I have to recoup €30 for a short solution is anything to go, by I’d be very foolish to go ahead and get the job done. I am aware that all the homeowners are responsible in a case such as this, but I am afraid to go and get it sorted as I, being a pensioner on a small income, I’m not prepared to bear most of the cost.

Please advise me as to how I can ensure repayment. While morally it is evident that they have an obligation, but is there anything in law to compel them?

I understand from the drain company that this is a common problem and I feel there should be an effort made to resolve it.

It is assumed that you are the owner occupier of one of the six houses in the terrace whilst the other five, as you state, are rented by the owners to their respective tenants. Unless there is a property management company in existence for the terrace of houses, you should contact the local authority to determine whether or not the services, including the drain you refer to, are “in charge”. If they are in charge then the responsibility for keeping the pipes and drains in working order rests with the local authority.

You should check the title documents of your property to see what obligations, if any, are set out in them in relation to the common services for pipes, drains, roads and conduits. There should be reference to easements and rights of way in the title documents which may deal with the obligations and responsibilities of the owners of the houses for the drains and the other services used in common.

Responsibility

In general there is a responsibility on all common users of services to ensure that they do not cause damage or nuisance to other persons who have rights to make use of them. Any remedial works that are required to resolve difficulties with the services should be borne equally between the property owners, if the local authority or another entity, does not have responsibility for them.

The old adage that “good fences make good neighbours” applies equally to drains and services.

The legal rights and obligations of property owners are often self-evident. However, the enforcement of obligations and responsibility can be difficult in the absence of co-operation between neighbours, though there is a legal remedy through the courts if needs be. – Patrick O’Connor

Patrick O’Connor is partner at P O’Connor & Son Solicitors, Swinford, Co Mayo, poconsol.ie

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