If something goes wrong with these services the disruption of our lives can be significant.

If you face a problem – whether it is over the charges or the service provided the first step is to contact their customer service help-line. If that does not resolve matters to your satisfaction, then you may find a formal complaint procedure on their website. Below is a sample complaint letter that you can adapt to your particular circumstances.

If that does not resolve the dispute, then you may have no option but to take matters further. Whether they will consider mediation or force you to take legal action or small claims service should be able to help you.


Summary of the law – water and sewage disputes

Your rights


Sewage: If your property has been damaged by sewage you may be entitled to compensation to make good the damage or harm caused.

This would be through a claim against the Director General of Water Services because the water company responsible were negligent by failing to provide and maintain effective drainage. By not maintaining the drains resulting in overflowing sewage they fail in their legal duty of care to the people affected.

Poor water quality: The water company is responsible for the supply of water (up to the point that it connects with your pipes). If you or a visitor to your home becomes ill due to poor water quality being supplied, you should be entitled to compensation.

This is usually a claim that the water company were negligent in failing to supply water of a reasonable quality – implying they should know that people drinking it might become ill.

Flooding: Where a water authority is responsible for flooding to your home, you might be entitled to compensation.

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights gives individuals a right to respect for private and family life. It has been held that these rights were breached by a water authority where it was shown that they failed to take appropriate steps to prevent flooding to someone’s home. The English and Welsh courts have to follow these principles.

Proper water supply and drainage: Where you are a customer of a water company you have a contract with them. In exchange for you paying their charges they must provide a reasonable service. If the service is not reasonable (for example not maintaining the drains or not supplying good quality water) they have breached the terms of the contract. You have the right to demand it be put right and that they pay compensation for your losses and expenses.


What do you have to prove to bring a claim?


1: What damage or harm you have suffered:

This is best shown with photos and a detailed explanation (with relevant dates).

Perhaps also collect statements (letters or emails) from other neighbours further providing details of the problems such as overflowing sewage.

2: Why it is the fault of the water company or authority:

Sometimes it will not be possible to say what they have done wrong, Iin which case you can argue that the damage would not have happened ‘but for’ the water company failing to meet it's standards and their duty of care owed to you

Sometimes you will have to spend some money on getting an expert's report to confirm it was the water company’s fault, such as an independent test on the quality of the water supply.

Photos may also support your claim  - such as photos of blocked mains drains

3: If you have suffered losses and expenses you will need to show they were caused by the water company and that the amount you are claiming back is reasonable:

  • Photos of damaged property
  • Receipts to prove the cost of repairs or replacements
  • With injury and ill health, make sure you have seen your GP or hospital – so there is an independent record of your medical examination.


What is the deadline for starting a claim at court?


The rules here are very complicated, and you should take advice as soon as possible as to how they apply to your particular circumstances. But the deadlines are generally:

  • 6 Years to start court proceedings against the water company causing the problem (breaching your contract or their duty of care to you)
  • 3 years to start court proceedings if you suffered an injury
  • f you were to decide to take your case to the European Court of Human Rights, you first have to have gone as far as you can with the courts of England and Wales, you then have just 6 months to right to the European Court of Human Rights, notifying them you wish to claim the water authority infringed your human rights



Example claims

  • Water provider supplying poor water quality.
  • Water provider not supplying a high enough water pressure.
  • Unsatisfactory customer service from Water Authority.



Disclaimer reminder


Please note: To give you general information about your dispute, the information given here is a simplification of a complex area of law and cannot be relied upon. Before taking action please use our Small Claims service to get specialist legal advice on your specific circumstances. See the full terms and conditions of this website


Format - complaint letter(Water supply or sewage dispute)



Information to include

Sample letter – water supply or sewage dispute


Start of official letter to other side.

 Dear Sirs,    




Any relevant background information:

What was agreed between you?

What happened (in date order)?

Be specific and refer to any written or verbal agreements. 


On 23 December 2013 I called your emergency helpline, as the sewer in the road in front of my home had flooded.

As a result, sewage seeped out of the sewer and dirty contaminated water crept up my front path. A number of my neighbours are experienced a similar situation.

After waiting on hold for twenty minutes, I spoke with your employee Adam at approximately 6pm.




Details of any payments requested and any payments made.


I am up to date with my payments to your company for both of sewage services and for the supply of water.

My last payment was in October 2013 for £288. I assume that this is not disputed but I can obtain evidence if needed.



Identify clearly why you are unhappy.

Give any relevant dates

Be clear about why you think the other person is responsible.


I explained the problem to Adam asking if a pipe engineer could come and have a look at the drain as there appeared to be a blockage.

Your company states that it provides this service on an emergency basis.

However, Adam was very uncooperative informing me that due to a lack of engineers in my area I would just have to call back after Christmas.

I told Adam that the problem was getting increasingly worse and that it could not wait for Christmas.

I also explained that my grandchildren were due to come round on Christmas day and it would be a health and safety risk for them to play near contaminated water. In response Adam just told me that I would have to keep them indoors and wait until the real emergencies had been dealt with. I was taken aback by this rudeness and said I would speak to somebody helpful instead.

I feel the service was unsatisfactory because it is your responsibility to maintain public sewers. Reports of sewage maintenance faults should be taken seriously.

I feel that the standard of customer care I received from Adam fell below what I should have been able to expect



Problems caused


Give details of any problems you have suffered as a result.

If relevant refer to photos.

Problems caused

  • Sewage is still covering part of my garden.  The problem is getting worse.
  • As well as being upset by the lack of service I received, I also had to rearrange my Christmas plans.

  • My garden is being damaged. I attach photographs.


Losses and expenses

If the problems have caused you losses or expenses - give details.

Also provide proof of the damage and cost of repairs or replacement wherever possible.

Losses and expenses

My Garden has been damaged by the rising sewage. I have a gravel path, grass and borders with flowers.

  • So far some of the plants have died, due to being submerged in sewage water. I estimate their replacement cost to be £25.
  • My gravel path has been ruined. I will need to pay a gardener to remove the dirty gravel and replace with fresh gravel. I enclose an estimate for £125 from Graham’s Garden Service.
  • For the trouble, upset and inconvenience caused to me so far ( 2 weeks) - including rearranging my plans for Christmas - I claim £100.

Therefore I claim losses and expenses of £250 to date.

In addition, if the problem has not been rectified within 7 days, I will instruct Diamond Drains Ltd to install a pump to clear my garden. They have advised this service will cost £300 per week.








Be as clear as possible about the remedy you would like.


  • Say what action you would like them to take (or stop).
  • Where you are asking for a payment - put a price on you seek.




I have a contract with your company to remove the waste water from my property and to maintain the public sewers. So far you have failed to do this.

Please send somebody to rectify the sewage problem within 7 days. If you do not I will instruct diamond Drains (as above) and claim back their charges of £300 per week from you.

Please also send me a cheque for my losses and expenses to date (as listed above) of £250.




Give your opponent 14 days to reply to the letter – to  either:

  • agree with your complaint and give you the remedy that you seek


  • arrange to inspect the problem


  • set out their detailed response.



Please do not ignore this letter. I would like us to resolve our issue without court proceedings and legal costs.  

Please arrange the sewer repair within 7 days and provide a reply to this letter within 14 days, so that this issue can be resolved as set out in this letter.

If you do not agree with the remedy sought, then please reply within 14 days detailing why



Point out that ignoring your letter will mean you may start legal proceedings for the court to deal with the dispute and that you may refer the judge to your letter.



I am sure it will not prove necessary but if I do not hear from you within 14 days then I reserve the right to start court proceedings without further reference to you.

If I do have to issue court proceedings, I will refer the court to this letter and I will also ask the court to order you to pay me interest, court fees and legal costs.

I look forward to hearing from you within the next 14 days.




Yours sincerely,

Ian Rate