What Are Your Rights and Responsibilities When it Floods?

What are your rights and responsibilities when it floods?

Ipswich Town FC’s Portman Road stadium was flooded recently as a result of the heavy rainfall that has hit East Anglia. The deluge also flooded the A12, causing traffic issues across the town and untold stress for local residents. But what rights and responsibilities do you have when your area is hit by inclement weather?

Major roads and motorways

All major roads and motorways across England are the responsibility of Highways England, a government-run organization that operates and maintains the country’s roads. Roads can become flooded during times of high rainfall due to everything from overloaded or inadequate drainage systems to blocked or damaged pipes and gullies. Highways England is in charge of ensuring all major roads are kept clear wherever possible, to ensure traffic can run smoothly and safely.

Rights as property owners

As a property owner, you are entitled to take “reasonable measures” to protect your home or business from flooding, with the provision that any measures you take do not have a negative impact on other people. In the event of heavy rain, homeowners are allowed to install sandbags to help soak up water, although they are also responsible for the safe and sanitary disposal of any sandbags that are used.

Responsibilities as property owners

Under English law, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to protect their property from flooding and mitigate the impact on neighbours of any flooding that does occur. If a drainage pipe on your property becomes blocked or damaged, you are responsible for any consequent flooding. The same rule applies to rain getting into your property via a leaking roof – any flooding or damage is your responsibility as the owner of the property.

If your land/property is next to a river

If you live alongside a natural watercourse or river, you are considered a ‘riparian owner’, and this comes with responsibility for maintaining the watercourse to prevent flooding. You are legally allowed to construct flood defences such as walls or embankments in order to protect your property from flooding, and you are also entitled to take measures to prevent erosion of the watercourse banks.

It is important to ensure, however, that any measures you take do not increase the likelihood of flooding on neighbouring properties. To avoid the possibility of legal action in the event that your flood defences have a negative impact on others, you should contact your local Environment Agency – there are three committees covering East Anglia (Anglian Central, Anglian Eastern and Anglian Northern), details of which can be found here.

Cesspits and septic tanks

If your property has a private drainage system such as a cesspit or septic tank that is not connected to the mains sewer system, it is your responsibility as a homeowner to ensure that it is correctly maintained and adheres to the general binding regulations. Although you do not have to register a private drainage system, you are legally obliged to ensure that wastewater from your system does not leak or overflow, as this can lead to contaminated public water supplies.

Flood type

Responsibility of

Canal floodingThe Canal and River Trust
Coastal floodingThe Environment Agency
Flash floodingDetermined by the source of the flash flood.
Groundwater floodingLead Local Flood Authority (LLFA)
Reservoir floodingThe Environment Agency
River floodingThe Environment Agency
Road floodingHighways England
Sewer floodingLead Local Flood Authority (LLFA)
Surface waterLocal water and sewerage companies

How Drain Doctor can help

If you live in East Anglia and your home or business has been affected by flooding, Anglia Drain Doctor is here to help. Our team of experts provide around-the-clock assistance for all your drainage needs – so make sure to give us a call today.