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Thread: Recurring flooding of sewage

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    Default Recurring flooding of sewage

     
    In December 2011 we bought a brand new home from Bloor Homes. 10 year guantee is provided by Zurich. To be fair to Bloor, they've been pretty good with general snags and minor issues and have dealt with most of them to my satisfaction.

    At the end of November 2012, following heavy rain the sewers surcharged and our property suffered internal flooding of raw sewage from the downstairs toilet. Immense damage throughout, we've had to move out and is of course a massive insurance claim.

    When we first notified Bloor of this incident (via phone) they promised to call me back and didn't. When I chased them a week later (over the phone) I managed to get the message through that this is quite serious and I needed them to pay me a bit of attention. They eventually sent a manager out who went to great lengths to explain to me how they had complied to all the building regulations, that it was nothing to do with them, and that Severn Trent Water are the ones I should be chasing. He even gave me a name and number of someone at STW who I should be chasing. I wasn't overly impressed and felt that Bloor were abandoning me in my moment of need and just trying to stitch up STW. (Of course, STW probably are culpable, but I'm not sure Bloor didn't have a part to play in this mess!)

    Anyway, since that initial flooding incident, we've now been flooded a further four times. We've learnt that lifting a manhole cover in the back garden when the sewers are surcharging causes the garden to flood with sewage, which is marginally better than having it in the house. Incidentally, the effluent drains away from our garden, across a public footpath and into a nearby stream, causing wider contamination and pollution concerns.

    We've also had a survey of our sewers which has found a displacement in the drain in our back garden which is letting in water. However, it is unlikely that this defect is the cause of the flooding as the volume of effluent is too much for a small displacement. But it's a defect none the less and arguably is contributing to the flooding issues. We simply don't know what the overall problem is - we can only surmise that the development has been built with inadequate drainage so in the event of heavy rainfall the sewers surcharge and the lay of the land is such that we have the shallowest drains on our line so we're the unlucky ones where the problem surfaces.

    Anyway, my question really is to what extent does it appear Bloor have been negligent here? Their current stance is "nothing to do with us, guv", but a friend of a friend who runs a building firm said to me that in his opinion the builder should buy the property back from us and allow us to buy a new home.

    Clearly the issue with the sewer displacement should fall to Bloor to fix (they havn't been notified of this defect yet) so I shall push for that, but if there is a wider issue with sewers on the development, do Bloor bare any of that responsibility or does that lie with the land owners (St Mowden)? Or do all the developers get away scott free if the sewers have been adopted by Severn Trent?

    Thanks in advance for any help and insight.

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    First of all as with any defect you MUST inform the house builder in writing without delay.
    You have a year left of the two year warranty and in the next 8 years drainage issues may be covered by the Zurich Warranty as it is with the NHBC.
    Point of note: Zurich no longer do new home warranty. They will honour and underwrite all warranties already in existence.
    I would be very wary of buying a new home that is not warrantied by the NHBC from any house builder.
    You may like to ask your self:
    1) Why do Bloor choose to not use the the NHBC warranty?
    2) Why Zurich decided to get out of this market?
    3) Why Bloor use LABC warranty mostly now.

    Storm and foul (sewer) waste water systems are designed to water authority regulations and standards and fully inspected by them at every stage during construction.
    In fact it is worth noting that water authority inspectors are generally right jobsworths, insisting everything is perfect before they will sign it off.
    Mains sewers, especially in adopted (Section 38 agreement) roads are covered under a Section 104 agreement.
    This means that at a certain time, the sewer is adopted by the local water authority in your case Severn Trent.
    It is doubtful that the sewers are adopted if the development is not 100% complete, even then the house builder is normally required to put right any defects for a period of time (2 years I think)

    I must say that Bloor's attitude to this is dreadful.
    No one buying a new home in the 21st centuary shoudl be flooded by raw sewage due to heavy rainfall.
    The systems should be designed so storm water drainage is completely separate to sewage, with storage culverts if required, to prevent this happening.
    However, I feel that the water authority will be your best bet in getting this resolved as it is clear this could happen again.
    If Bloor have failed in any respect it will be in Severn Trent's own interests to get it put right before they take over full responsibility.
    They are also big enough to take legal action against Bloor should it be necessary.

    If this has happend to me I wouldn't want to live there anymore and your home could be difficult to sell.
    I doubt Bloor will do the honourable thing and buy the house back from you but you could ask.
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    Hi NewHomeExpert - thanks for your thoughts.

    Regarding the warranty, to be honest with you I thought all these warranties were the same sort of thing, just by different providers. Maybe I've been naive but I just thought if it had a 10 year warranty that was good enough. In any case, there's not a lot I can do about that now - Zurich is what I've got.

    Regarding the adoption of the roads, sewers etc, I'm not entirely sure what the state of play is. Bloor were quite keen to say the sewers have been adopted, but then they would say that wouldn't they. The phase of development that our property sits on is complete - Bloor moved off site around February/March. I know for a fact that the roads and footpaths have NOT been adopted by the local authority yet - is it feasible that the sewers would have been adopted by STW or have Bloor fed me a lie?

    Incidentally this development is a brown field site - the land is owned by St Modwen, and according to my paperwork gubbins it seems Halcrow laid all the drainage. So in this respect, would Bloor even have anything to do with this? And if not, do I have a right to pursue them for any damages? Correct me if I'm wrong but my understanding is that it is with Bloor whom I have a contractual agreement so it is them who I should pursue. If anyone else is found negligent then it is up to Bloor to challenge them.

    Regarding storm water and sewage being separate, I queried this with a Severn Trent contractor who attended one of the floods. He said that on a new development like ours, both will be separate, but older systems such as in the old town up the hill from us, that wont necessarily be the case. All sewers eventually feed into one another so it seems the storm water gets in the system up the hill, and causes problems when it joins our new sewer down the bottom of the hill.

    Regarding your point about maybe having better luck chasing STW, I've not exactly had satisfactory engagement with either of them yet. My approach is to go at both of them with equal vigour and hope for the best. Unfortunately I don't think selling my home is an option now, so I can only hope to get the underlying problem resolved through badgering these people and chasing them for compensation.

    One final question: we are at the end of the line on the drain which serves our property (and 3 other properties before going to a large manhole which I assume is the main sewer). So the drain in our garden is our responsibility until it reaches the boundary. Therefore, I'm within my rights to have a non return valve installed. This would protect my property, but of course move the problem up to my neighbour. Another option could be to convince STW to install a NRV at the other end of the line where it joins the main sewer. That then protects all four properties, but means in the event of a charged sewer all residents on the line can't really flush their loos or have showers. Do you feel either of those solutions are a goer?

    Thanks again for your help.

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    If Bloor say the sewers have been adopted it is quite easy to check.
    All you need to do is ask the water authority.
    It appears as if Bloor have bought a section of a larger development off St Mowden.
    From what you say it sounds like this was a serviced site, in that main roads and sewers were constuicted on St Mowdens behalf and Bloor have nothing to do with them.
    All sewers constructed within Bloor's development area will be Bloor's or the water authority's responsibility.
    I am not sure of the legal position regarding sueing Bloor for negligence in any case it would be very difficult to prove.
    What you need is the obvious problem put right and fast, our weather doesnt look like it will ever get any better!
    So I would go for the water company. They will own the sewers if they do not alreday and it is their responsibility.

    From 1 October 2011 the shared drainage is now the water authority's responsibility, even previoulsy private drainage that may be on your land. Click the link for more.
    If your drainage is still considered private, fitting a one way valve may be a good idea, certainly something to look into.
    It would need to be professionally installed and maintained and could be a potential source of blockage but would be better that what you have now.

    It would be useful to get together with everyone on the development who has been affected by this forming an action group and get some local or even national publicity.
    You could threaten Bloor with bad publicity, headlines like "new homes ruined by raw sewage on Bloor Homes development"
    Maybe then they would be more inclined to be proactive and help their customers get resolution rather than pass the buck!
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    Thanks again for your input. As you can image with this weather we've had further issues over the weekend. Some Severn Trent contractors were on site today having quite a good look around over quite a wide area. Apparently the main sewer that our drain feeds into is huge - you could walk through it - but it's absolutely full. Apparently it is flowing and there are no issues that they can see, but it's just overwhelmed with storm water. So it seems the problem could well be older combined sewers up the hill feeding into the new sewer on this development.

    So if I was to assume that there are no physical blockages or structural defects that may be causing these issues (other than the minor issue on our drain), and that everything was built to an approved design and signed off along the way according to procedure, could it be that the fundamental design of the system just isn't adequate? If so, who is liable for that? They have all these strict building regulations in place for a reason, but if they are adhered to and it's still not good enough, where does the buck stop?

    It sounds like whatever the solution, it's not going to be a quick and easy one, and will involve a fair amount of digging. In the meantime I think an NRV on my property is my only option.

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    Put it this way if it was me I would be holding the water company liable.
    There is a situation near Portsmouth with Southern Water, much the same thing.
    When it rains a lot peoples homes and gardens get flooded with sewage.
    The water companies charge plenty, (more expensive than electricity for the average household) so they can afford to update their systems to stop this.
    THe NRV is the way to go until it is sorted.
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