Landlord Advice

Responsibility For Blocked Drain – Tenant Or Landlord?

Clogged drains can seem pretty insignificant considering everything else that can go wrong for a rental property. It’s nothing compared to a boiler shutting down, right? We’d agree most of the time, as a boiler would need to be fixed immediately.

But that’s not to say that a blocked drain isn’t important! While a blocked drain can be a mild annoyance at first, it could lead to serious issues in the future. With that said, you’re probably wondering as a landlord about who is responsible for blocked drains. A question we’ll be happy to answer!

So if you:

  • Want to find out who is responsible for drains;
  • Want to know how to identify if a drain is blocked;
  • Provide some useful information for tenants

Then read on! 

Who is responsible for blocked drains?

Let’s start with an answer. It depends. This might seem confusing, but the responsibility is often determined by the type of blockage and its location. Once you know what to look for, it’s easy to determine responsibility. So, let’s go into a bit more detail. 

Note: HMO regulations on pipes, drains and plumbing are the same as single-let properties, thankfully, so if you’re an HMO landlord, this information still applies to you! 

Tenant Responsibility for drains

Once your tenants have signed the tenancy agreement, they are entirely responsible for what they put down the drain.  This means they shouldn’t be disposing of certain materials in the sink. This includes:

  • Pan grease
  • Oil
  • Fatty materials
  • Excess food residue

It’s the same for other drains. If folks are flushing excess tissue paper, or other materials in toilets, it can cause a clog. Or if your tenants aren’t regularly cleaning hair from the shower or bath drains, there’ll be issues eventually, of course. 

The good thing is, many small blockages can be resolved using home remedies. Clogging can occur even if your tenants are being careful, especially if your property is within London. This is because London often uses hard water, which can cause mineral deposits to build up within the drains over time. We recommend a mixture of baking soda, white vinegar and boiling water, which can be more effective than commercial drain unblockers. It can even unblock a drain in standing water.

What is important to note is that a landlord doesn’t need to pay for any drain repairs if your tenants cause damage to the drainage system. Whether it be through misuse or carelessness, this is the tenant’s responsibility. If there is any confusion, you can always refer to your tenancy agreement.

Landlord’s responsibility for drains

While your tenants are usually responsible for any blockages they cause, you’re responsible for maintaining everything else. This might include:

  • Collapsed pipes
  • Tree roots growing into a pipe (inside property boundary)
  • Cracks, lesions and other wear and tear issues
  • Freezing and thawing of the pipes 

The Landlord Act of 1985 clearly states that you are responsible for the repairs and maintenance of drainage, pipes and plumbing on the property. That means if there are any structural problems in your drainage system, you will need to take care of it. 

Note: Tenants should notify the landlord as soon as they notice any serious problems, which might cause further damage, like flooding. If tenants don’t notify the landlord, they could be held liable for the damages. 

Unfortunately, repairing these issues often comes with a cost, as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to sort the issue by yourself. You’ll usually need a qualified plumber. They will be able to find the cause of the blockage and can repair damaged pipes. 

If you refuse to repair a drainage problem, you are responsible for maintaining it, you are in breach of the contract and your tenants are able to take you to court. As you can imagine, this can lead to expensive and lengthy court cases, something that nobody wants to go through. Pay for the repairs immediately, it’s always the better option.

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Issue outside of your property boundary

For lateral drains and public sewers, they aren’t the landlord’s responsibility and will need to be repaired by a local water company. Water companies do sometimes need access to your property, however, so be aware of this.

 If you manage and are the owner of a property with a private sewer, like a flat, you will be responsible for any repairs that need to be carried out.

How to prevent blockages in drains

The best way to stop petty arguments about clogged drain responsibility is to prevent the problem from arising in the first place. After all, preventing problems will help save you money in the long run, meaning more profits. And profits are one of the reasons you’ve become a landlord. So, let’s go over some things that you can do to prevent clogs in your drainage system. 

Debris caps

These are cheap to buy and easy to install on most of your sinks and drains. They are plastic or metal fixtures that go onto or into the drain, preventing food waste, hair and other materials from flowing down. You can find them online or in shops and they can save both you and your tenant any hassle. 

No oil, grease or fat

Advise your tenant that they shouldn’t be putting any cooking oil down the sink. Your tenants can use empty containers, like jars or bottles, in order to dispose of any oil or grease. This can then be thrown out with the normal rubbish. It’s also useful to wipe over pans after disposing of the oil, just to make sure no oil has been missed that can go down the drain. 

Be careful of what is getting flushed

Tenants shouldn’t be flushing things like wet wipes, sanitary towels or dental floss down the toilet. You can place a small bin in the bathroom to make sure these get disposed of properly. It doesn’t hurt if you leave a note about this on a visible spot, as well.

 Depending on how old your house is, your drainage system might find it hard to deal with thicker tissue papers. If this becomes a problem, you could ask your tenants to switch to single ply, which breaks down much easier than double- or triple-ply toilet paper. 


Pour boiling water down the drain

Regardless of how careful tenants are, some debris can pass through the drain. So, to avoid any blockages, your tenants can pour boiling water down the drain, which should loosen any build-up of gunk. This will also help to remove bad smells coming from the drain.

Regular pipe inspections

As a landlord, pipe inspections can save you a lot of money in the long run! Inspections will make sure everything is in working order within your drainage system. Plus, they can identify any problem areas that might turn into something more serious later on. Pipe inspections can be carried out every 2-3 years and is a great way to ensure your pipes remain healthy.

Need help with a clogged pipe? 

As we know, some pipes can’t be unblocked with home remedies. That’s where we at Fantastic Services can help, as we specialise in professional plumbing services, available 7 days a week. We can supply you with a professional plumber, who will be able to identify exactly where the problem is and fix it. No matter the issue, the plumbers we work with are qualified and equipped to deal with it, ensuring the happiness of both you and your tenant. 

So, what are you waiting for? Contact us, we’re here to help!

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  • If a blockage has been caused by the tenant, they will have to repair the issue. 
  • For blockages out of the tenant’s control, you, as a landlord, will have to address the repairs and pay for the labour and materials.
  • You will usually need a professional plumber to complete more complex plumbing repairs.
  • There are plenty of methods that can help prevent clogging, which both you and your tenants can implement!

Disclaimer: Every piece of information here is meant for informational and educational purposes only. So please, do not use this as a definitive legal basis. Fantastic Services encourages you to seek authority professional counsel before you decide to act upon what you have read. For more information, check our disclaimer.


We hope you found our article helpful! If you have any questions or some useful advice of your own, feel free to leave a comment with us below.

Image Source: Shutterstock/ Igal Vaisman

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