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Blocked drains can cause serious problems for businesses. Blockages lead to problems like standing water or even flooding. These problems can damage business premises or products. They can even restrict access.

Beyond flooding or water that stagnates because it is unable to drain away, blocked drains also emit foul odors that are unpleasant for employees and customers alike.

All of these problems can have serious negative consequences in both the short and long term. Moreover, they can be difficult to address if you are unaware of who is responsible for taking care of the problem in the first place.

Business Owners Need to Be Proactive

The negative effects of blocked drains can make it difficult for a company to conduct business.

So when a problem like a blocked drain arises owners should be proactive and resolve the problem as quickly as possible. This is especially true in cases where it is disruptive to business,

However, a common frustration is that, often, the drains are not their responsibility and they may be unable to act. Private drains are the responsibility of the building’s owner. If you rent your premises, as most small businesses do, it will be the responsibility of the landlord or holding company to clear the drains. This is the case even if your business or an employee is responsible for the blockage.

Whether or not this applies depends on the terms of your contract with your landlord. In some cases, you will have ultimate responsibility for maintenance and repairs of the space you are renting. You may also have specific responsibility for drainage or other aspects of maintenance according to the provisions of your agreement. You can review the contract or speak to your landlord for more information about this.

What If the Drain Is Not on My Business Premises?

If the drain is in a public place, such as on the street in front of your business premises, this is also not your responsibility to take care of. The local water authority manages public drains. You should inform them as soon as you notice a problem. Different authorities will have different contact forms or other ways to get in touch. Therefore, it is best to search for this information when faced with a problem.

While it can be frustrating if a blocked public drain is causing problems in the vicinity of your business, you should not try to tackle the problem yourself. Nor should you privately hire a drainage engineer to take care of it. Without permission from the water authority, they will be unable to act. This means that working with the water authority to resolve the problem is always the best solution.

If you are unsure, wherever possible you should try to access the deeds to your building if you own it. Or speak to your landlord or holding company if you don’t own the building.

It may be worthwhile to report the problem to your local authority in any case. This is because waiting until you have reviewed the deeds and confirmed whether the drain belongs to you or the local water authority could delay the process of resolving the problem. Your water authority may also be able to confirm whether the drain is your responsibility or theirs.

How Can I Fix Blocked Drains?

The best actions in such cases are preventative. Ensure that your business conducts appropriate training for employees on what should and should not be discarded down the drains. Also put up signage in appropriate places to remind staff not to put food scraps, sanitary products, or other items into your drains.

If a drain is blocked and you find that you are responsible for taking care of it, it is best to contact a specialist drainage engineer to help. While it may seem possible to fix the problem yourself, especially if it is a blocked sink or other seemingly minor problem, it is not advisable to do this, no matter how frustrating the blockage may be. Doing so can lead to more significant and expensive issues if you don’t remove the blockages properly. This is almost never worth the risk.

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Even if you are successful at removing a blockage, the most common outcome is that you are able to flush the material that blocked the drain. The blockage could be made of fat, oil, and grease (FOG); food scraps; hair, or something else. However, you will merely be flushing it further into the drainage system. While this may resolve the initial challenge, it is not the most suitable solution. This is because the blockage may reform further inside the pipes and create a much bigger problem.

Further, many liquids that are designed to clear blockages are highly corrosive. While they may be successful at eating through the material that is blocking the drain, they can also damage pipes.

Needless to say, if you are responsible for expensive damage to the drainage system in your business premises, you may be held accountable for the cost of repairs by your landlord. These types of repairs—for example, relining or replacing a pipe, or multiple pipes within a system—can be far more expensive than simply taking care of the drainage system in the first place by employing a drainage engineer to clear a blockage.

Take Responsibility for Looking After Drains

Whether you are responsible for fixing a blocked drain or not, you should still take responsibility for looking after drains. There can be significant environmental challenges associated with bad drainage habits alongside the costs you might incur from a blockage or other damage. By taking care of your drains and keeping them in good working order, you will rarely need to worry about who is responsible for fixing problems, because they will be much less likely to arise.

About the Author

Richard Leigh is Business Development Director at Lanes Group.

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