When purchasing a property, your solicitor will obtain searches to identify which utilities serve the property.
These searches will include a Drainage and Water search, which will show whether there is a publically maintained fresh and foul water service connection to the property. This search will show whether the connection point is in the property itself or in the road which abuts the property (the “Road”).
It is therefore important to know whether or not the Road is a publically maintained road.
If the Road is publically maintained, the statutory providers will be able to exercise their statutory powers to pass over it to make the necessary connections.
If the Road is not adopted you will not be able to automatically access over it to connect to the requisite services. You will need to check that your title documents provide a right to the services but also a right of access over the Road to connect into them and, if necessary, enhance these to facilitate a larger development on the property. If the property does not benefit from the requisite rights, you will need to obtain consent from the legal owner of the Road which is likely to be costly and time consuming.
If the owner of the unadopted Road is not known (i.e. where the land is unregistered land) you will need to obtain insurance to cover the risk of the unknown owner revealing themselves and preventing the grant of servicing rights to the property.
However, all is not necessarily simplified where the connection is already made to and is within the boundaries of the property. Under s106 of the Water Industry Act 1991, consent from the statutory provider is required to connect, particularly where there is an enhancement to an existing use. Developers should take care to ensure this consent is obtained when the initial approach to the statutory provider is made. Under s109 of the same Act, a statutory provider is able to withdraw a service where consent has not be obtained.
It is imperative that close review of the title documents is made to ensure that the rights benefitting the property are clear. It is also important that early discussions are held with the statutory providers to ensure that any connections made are consented and are dealt with as soon as possible to avoid delays in the onward sale of the completed units.