Is it the tenant’s responsibility to unblock drains, or is that the job of the landlord?

That’s a question that many people find themselves asking, and there isn’t always a clear answer. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at who is typically responsible for unblocking drains and what you can do if you find yourself in a situation where the drains need to be cleaned.

What are the Responsibilities of a Landlord and Tenant When it Comes to Drains and Plumbing Issues in General?

Generally, a landlord is responsible for maintaining the plumbing and drains in the property, while the tenant is responsible for what goes down those drains.

This general rule, however, has certain exceptions. A tenant may be held accountable for the costs if it is proven that they caused or contributed to the issue.

A good example of this is when a tenant clogs the drain with their own hair or skin. If there is a build-up of fat, oil, grease, or other substances in the pipe that can contribute to a drain blockage, then the tenant would likely be responsible for the cost of clearing the blockage.

In other circumstances, the tenant may not be responsible for what goes down the drain, but they are responsible for the condition of the drain. This means that they should take steps to unclog the drain if it becomes clogged.

To avoid this, tenants should only flush appropriate things down the toilet and put grease in the garbage, not down the drain.

What are the Landlord’s Responsibilities in Maintenance?

When it comes to drains, landlords are typically responsible for the maintenance of main-connected drainage systems, including public sewers and septic tanks.

That said, they aren’t always responsible for blockages that occur on private property or within domestic buildings. This is because there are usually multiple pipelines within the property, and it is not always clear which pipeline caused the blockage.

What are the Landlord’s Responsibilities in Emergencies?

According to UK law, landlords must ensure that there are sufficient drain clearing tools on-site in case of an emergency situation where they need to unblock drains before a plumber arrives.

This means that they must have the right tools and quantities of equipment, including:

  • A plunger for toilets.
  • A drain auger (also known as a “drain snake”) for blockages in sinks, basins, or baths.
  • Chemical drain cleaners such as high-power drain jetters or unblocking gels.
  • A vent pipe and a brush.
  • Drain rods, or “snakes” for unblocking gullies and manholes.
  • A sump pump is in case the drains flood.

What are the Responsibilities of a Tenant When it Comes to Unblocking Drains?

If the tenant becomes aware that there is a blockage in the drains or toilets, they should first contact their landlord.

If this doesn’t resolve the issue, then they should try using appropriate drain unblocking tools. If these attempts fail, then it might be time to contact a plumber.

What are the Responsibilities of a Landlord When it Comes to Unblocking Drains?

When it comes to unblocking drains, landlords should try and fix the issue themselves, or at least point their tenants in the direction of someone who can.

If they decide that they need to call a plumber, then they should first ensure that their tenants know this (e.g. by putting up a notice).

They should also wait until the water has been turned off before attempting to unblock drains (in case there is a burst pipe). If the emergency affects multiple properties, then landlords should also make sure that they check any other affected buildings for damage and safety issues.

Who is Responsible if the Blockage Occurs as a Result of Negligence on the Part of Either Party Involved?

If the blockage was caused by negligence, then it would be up to the courts to decide who should pay. Factors that are taken into account include:

  • Whether either party knew there was a problem with the drains prior to the blockage.
  • How much damage was done as a result of the blockage?
  • Both parties’ respective financial situations.
  • The difficulty of unblocking the drains.

It is important to note that this will vary depending on which county you’re in and how the law works in that particular area.

If a clog occurs and it can be clearly determined who caused it (i.e., one of the parties involved), then responsibility for clearing the blockage will typically be placed on the party that caused it.

How can you Tell if the Blockage is Your Responsibility or Your Landlord’s Responsibility?

If the blockage is happening within the boundary of your property, then it’s usually your responsibility to unblock it with a plunger or drain auger.

If the blockage is on the main sewer line, then this is typically your landlord’s responsibility because there are sewers that run underneath multiple properties.

What Should you do if the Drain is Blocked – try to Unblock it Yourself or Call a Professional?

This is very much dependent on your personal preference (and budget).

If you’re responsible for the blockage, then it might be worth trying to unblock it yourself. This might be easier than hiring a professional to do the job, especially if you’ve already tried and failed once or twice.

How Much Will it Cost to get a Professional to Unblock Your Drains?

On average, you can expect to pay £80 per hour for a plumber to unblock your drains (based on an average of 1 hour).

This price is likely to be higher if the problem is more difficult to fix or if the issue has been ongoing for some time. For example, if your rainwater tank is full and it needs to be drained, then you may have to pay more because the plumber will need to factor in travel time and materials into their price.

Even if it’s your responsibility to fix a blockage that is within your property boundary, it can still be worth hiring a professional plumber if you’re not confident doing the job yourself.

What are the Consequences if you don’t Unblock the Drains Yourself or get a Professional to do it?

If you neglect to fix a blocked drain, your landlord may take you to court.

Depending on the circumstances, the courts might put the responsibility of unblocking drains on you if they agree that it’s something you should have done. In some cases, this could lead to fines or even eviction from your rental property.


Blocked drains are a common problem that can be caused by many things, such as tree roots, food waste, and grease.

It’s not always clear who is responsible for unblocking them, but homeowners and renters both have a responsibility to keep the drains clear. There are some simple ways to prevent blocked drains from happening in the first place, such as using strainers in your sinks and showers and only putting biodegradable materials down the drain.

If a drain becomes blocked, it’s important to take action as soon as possible to avoid further damage. Contact us today if you need help unblocking your drains or want advice on how to prevent them from becoming blocked in the future.