Is it the Landlord’s Responsibility to Unblock Drains?

is it the landlords responsibility to unblock drains

Whether you are a tenant who is currently renting your property, or a landlord dealing with a maintenance request, deciding where the responsibility lies when it comes to blocked drains is often a subject of debate.

On the one hand, the blockage may have been caused by the tenant. Pouring fat down the sink, flushing wet wipes and other unfit materials or hair build-ups can all cause your drains to block. 

On the other hand, a tenant would argue that the drainage system is part of the structure of the property which makes it the landlord’s responsibility to maintain. When we talk about drainage systems, we aren’t just referring to the pipes within your property. Your system will run throughout your property, underground and then connect to the main sewers.

So Who Is Responsible for Drain Repairs?

It’s a tricky argument. Really, both parties are right in what they’re saying. If the tenant has been putting cooking oil down the sink causing the drains to block, why should the landlord foot the bill? But how do they know that the issue is the tenants’ fault? The blockage could be caused by a cracked or collapsed pipe further down the system, making it a structural repair.

What’s Going Down the Drain?

The law states that landlords aren’t required to repair things that tenants have broken through misuse or carelessness. Therefore, if the blockage has been caused by a careless tenant their landlord is within their rights to ask the tenant to pay or contribute to any repairs.

A lot of the time, people put things down the drain without realising the damage they can cause. Here is a list of things that we often find at the root of drain blockages: 

  • Flushable Kitty Litter
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Grease, fat and oils
  • Produce stickers
  • Cotton balls and paper towels
  • Condoms
  • Household fluids

While all of these items seem harmless, a build-up of any of them can cause your drains to block. This is why it’s important to monitor what you are flushing or putting down the kitchen sink.

With that being said, a blocked drain isn’t always an indication of carelessness. There could be something causing the issue further downstream.

What if the Tenant Didn’t Cause the Issue?

But what if the drain blockage wasn’t caused by the tenant? 

If you’re noticing slow draining sinks, baths or showers, the fault might not lie with the tenant. It could be due to an issue that has occurred downstream. There are several reasons a drain may be blocked. Three of the most likely external causes are:

  • Damaged pipes
  • Tree roots in drains
  • Collapsed pipes

These issues require a drainage expert to come and assess the pipes. Maintain Drains often use CCTV drain surveys for a thorough inspection and to identify the root of the problem. The live feed from the camera helps us spot the issue quickly and easily, without the need for drain excavation. 

If a structural problem like the ones listed above is the cause of the blocked drain, the tenant is not at fault. Often these things happen due to general wear and tear or poor-quality craftsmanship.

So is it the tenants or the landlord’s responsibility to repair the drains? The best way to find out is to get to the root of the problem…

How to Identify the Root of the Problem

The easiest way to get to the root cause is to call your local drainage expert. They will be able to identify the issue by inspecting the drains and checking the system. 

Sometimes you may be able to tackle the blockage yourself using a drain rod or caustic soda, however, without an expert opinion, you will never know what’s going on beneath the surface. This could result in continued trouble, foul odours and long-term damage to the property.

If you’re unsure about who’s to blame, the best thing to do is call a drains specialist and find out what is going on. The tenant and the landlord could contribute to the costs, find the root of the problem and then decide whether it is the landlord’s responsibility to unblock the drain or not.

We hope you’ve found this information helpful. One final note, if the issue occurs outside of your properties line of responsibility, it is the council who should be taking care of the repairs. If you don’t know where your properties responsibility ends, you may want to consider getting your drains mapped. 

And finally, if you have any questions, or you’re dealing with blocked drains in Poole, Bournemouth or the surrounding Dorset areas, don’t hesitate to get an expert’s opinion from the team at Maintain Drains. Simply fill out our form at the bottom of this page and a member of the team will get back to you.


Q: Who is responsible for blocked drains in a rental property?

A: The responsibility for blocked drains can be debated between tenants and landlords.

Q: What might cause drains to become blocked due to tenant actions?

A: Pouring fat, flushing wet wipes, putting inappropriate materials, or hair build-ups can cause drain blockages.

Q: Can tenants argue that drain maintenance is the landlord’s responsibility?

A: Yes, tenants often argue that drain maintenance is the landlord’s responsibility since the drainage system is part of the property’s structure.

Q: Can tenants be held responsible for drain repairs?

A: According to the law, if the blockage results from a tenant’s misuse or carelessness, landlords can ask them to pay for repairs.

Q: What are some common items that can cause drain blockages?

A: Items like flushable kitty litter, coffee grounds, eggshells, grease, fat, oils, produce stickers, cotton balls, paper towels, condoms, and household fluids can lead to drain blockages.

Q: What are some external causes of drain blockages not caused by tenants?

A: External causes might include damaged pipes, tree roots in drains, and collapsed pipes.

Q: How can the root cause of a drain blockage be identified?

A: Calling a local drainage expert to inspect the drains and assess the system is the easiest way to identify the root cause of a drain blockage.

Q: What is the recommended action if unsure about responsibility for drain repairs?

A: If uncertain about responsibility, it’s advisable to call a drains specialist to determine the cause of the blockage and decide on repair responsibilities.

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