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Key Points

Building Regulations deal with the fitting of water and sanitary appliances. There are also specific regulations (replacing the water bylaws) regulating water and sanitary fittings. There are legislative requirements as to the purity of water supply and local authorities have wide ranging powers to ensure that domestic premises are adequately drained. There are requirements about notifying the water supplier before certain water fittings are installed.

Building Regulations

Water Supplies, sanitary fittings, w.c.s, wash hand basins etc fall within the definition of controlled services and fittings for the purposes of Building Regulations. Thus, where such fittings are installed this must be done in accordance with the relevant Requirements of the Building Regulations (see the requirement under Part G, H. and J). The Building Regulations require notice to be given at certain stages of the work to the local authority (or approved inspector) and this includes the covering up of drains. Essentially, however, Building Regulations only deal with the initial installation work and they do not deal with ongoing obligations to ensure that the water supply or drains are kept in safe condition or do not give rise to any threat to health.


There are various legislative provisions under the Public Health Legislation dealing with drainage. Generally, they enable a local authority to serve notice to require the defect to be remedied. Failure to comply is a criminal offence. A local authority is empowered to carry out works in default and recover the costs

Water Quality/contamination

In relation to water the Water Industry Act 1991 imposes requirements relating to the quality of water supplies. It authorises the making of regulations to deal with matters relating to the purity of water supply.

Section 73 of the 1991 Act creates a criminal offence which can be committed in certain circumstances by any person who is the owner or occupier of any premises to which a public supply of water is provided. The offence is committed where the person intentionally or negligently causes or allows any water fitting for which he is responsible to be out of order or so in need of repair or if it is so constructed or adapted or so used that water is likely to be contaminated by the return of any substance from the premises to the mains or so that water is likely to be contaminated before it is used or is likely to be wasted. The penalty is a fine not exceeding Level 3.


In certain circumstances a water undertaker may in an emergency disconnect the supply or in other cases serve notice on the consumer requiring him to take specified steps in certain circumstances. These arise where the water undertaker has reason to believe that damage to persons or property is likely to be caused by any damage to or defect in any water fitting; that water is being contaminated by the return of a substance from the premises to the main; that water is likely to be contaminated before it is used or that water is likely to be wasted or misused. Where disconnection takes place the undertaker, as soon as reasonably practicable, will serve notice on the consumer specifying the steps which must be taken before the supply is restored so as to ensure that the damage etc will not recur. Where, instead, notice is served requiring steps to be taken the period allowed being not less than 7 days must be stipulated. If these steps are not then taken the water undertaker can carry out the steps itself and recover the expense from the person on whom the notice is served. The local authority is under a duty to notify any water undertaker of anything appearing to the authority to suggest that any supply is unwholesome or insufficient for domestic purposes or is likely to cause danger to life or health. Where this occurs the local authority can require the undertaker to provide a supply of water otherwise than by pipes. If this is done then the local authority is liable for the cost of providing the alternative supply but has power of recovery from the owner or occupier of the premises concerned.

Private supplies

Local authorities have powers in relation to private supplies of water.

Water fittings

As a result of powers conferred by the 1991 Act there are also regulations which apply to the supply of water, the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999. These supersede local water bylaws. They came into force on the 1st July 1999 and they apply to water fittings used for domestic purposes. However, the regulations cannot require the removal of water fittings which were legally installed prior to the 1st July 1999.

There is a prohibition on installing a water fitting, altering, disconnecting or using a water fitting in contravention of the Regulations. Water fittings must not contaminate water. Every water fitting must be of an appropriate quality and standard and be suitable in the circumstances in which it is used. This means it must bear an appropriate CE marking or comply with another appropriate standard e.g. British Standard. Any work must be done in a workmanlike manner. Work must comply with any appropriate British Standard or approved specification. Alternatively the method of installation must be approved by the water undertaker.

Notice regarding installation of certain fittings

The person proposing to install certain water fittings must give prior notice to the water undertaker and not commence the work without the consent of the undertaker (such consent not to be unreasonably withheld). The conditions attached to the consent must be complied with. In the case of residential accommodation this includes the erection of a building or change of use under which the premises are to be used as a dwelling. Additionally, it includes the follows:-

  1. A bath having a capacity of 230 metres
  2. A bidet. However, this does not prohibit installation by an approved contractor in this instance
  3. A single shower unit

Approved Contractors

Where a water fitting is installed or connected or disconnected by an approved contractor the contractor must, on completion of the work, furnish a signed certificate stating whether the water fitting complies with the requirements of the regulations. Where the prior consent of the water undertaker is required the certificate must be sent to the water undertaker. For the purposes of the regulation a contractor is a person approved by the water undertaker or certified as an approved contractor by a recognised organisation.


There are fines for contravening the regulations. However, it is a defence to show that the work in question was carried out by or at the direction of an approved contractor and that the contractor certified the works.

Rights of Entry

There is a right to carry out inspections and tests to check compliance.

Detailed Requirements

There are a number of detailed requirements in the regulations. The water undertaker can grant a relaxation of these. These Requirements relate to water fittings. The regulations relate not only to duty of installation of the fitting but its subsequent use. If necessary they must be replaced so as to comply with the Requirement.

The requirements include the following:-

  1. No material must be used which is likely to cause contamination of water
  2. Water fittings must be protected from erosion and be of suitable strength and thickness
  3. Water fittings must be water tight and constructed to prevent ingress by contaminants/inhibit damage by freezing as well as being adequately supported.
  4. They must be capable of withstanding any internal water pressure not less than 1½ times the maximum pressure.
  5. A water fitting must not be likely to have a detrimental affect on quality/pressure of water
  6. Water fittings must not be embedded in any wall or concrete floor. Where laid below ground level the cover must be sufficient to prevent water freezing.
  7. There is a restriction on concealed water fittings.
  8. Cold water must be kept in such a way that it is not likely to be warmed above 25°c.
  9. A stop valve must be provided.
  10. The supply system must be capable of being drained down.
  11. The rain water system must be tested, flushed and where necessary disinfected before it is first used.
  12. Any water fittings must be identified so as to distinguish them from water supply pipes.
  13. There must be adequate devices to prevent back flow.
  14. The pipes supplying water to a storage system must be fitted with a valve to shut of the inflow or a system must be installed so as to minimise the risk and contamination of a store of water and they must be designed to allow free circulation.
  15. Appropriate feed pipes must be provided for water systems.
  16. There must be a temperature device to prevent water heating above 100°c.
  17. Provision must be made for expansion valves etc in water systems.
  18. A w.c. must be supplied with a water flushing system, by a single flush.
  19. There must be at least one tap conveniently situated for drinking water.
  20. Every bath, wash hand basin, sink or similar must be provided with a watertight plug, subject to certain specified exceptions.

Drainage for new building/extensions

15. In relation to drainage under the Building Act 1984 new buildings or extensions to buildings must be provided with "satisfactory drainage" subject to the power of a local authority to dispense with this requirement. Failure to comply entitles the local authority to reject any plans that do not comply with the Building Regulations. There is a right of appeal to the Magistrates Court.

16. A local authority must reject plans deposited under the Building Regulations unless it can be shown in the proposal that it will provide a reasonable supply of water for domestic purposes and the local authority is satisfied that the proposal can in fact be put into effect. There is a right of appeal to the Magistrates Court. If plans are passed but the proposal has not been carried out or has resulted in insufficient supply of water for domestic purposes a local authority must give notice to the owner of the house or building occupied that until a certificate has been issued that a satisfactory supply of water has been provided. There is a right of appeal.

Landlord's repairing obligations/defective premises

17. Provision of satisfactory water supplies and drainage is also secured by the landlord's repairing obligation under Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985. Section 11 places obligations on landlords in relation to drains, sanitary conveniences, wash hand basins, sinks, w.c.s as well as the water supply installations and requires them to be kept in proper working order. There is also the possibility of liability for defects arising under Section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972.

Houses in Multiple Occupation

18.1 Under the HMO Management Regulations there are duties imposed regarding the safety of occupiers. Toilets baths showers sinks or wash basins (or any cupboard shelving or fittings supplied in a bathroom or lavatory) washing machines and other laundry appliances supplied by the landlord must be kept in good and clean condition and in safe repair and proper working order. These requirements apply whether the house in multiple occupation is licensable or not. Houses in multiple occupation include properties such as shared houses and bedsits. For more information about the definition of house in multiple occupation click here. If you require additional information regarding HMO Management Regulations click here.

18.2 The landlord of an HMO (whether licensable or not) must ensure that the water supply and the drainage system serving the HMO are maintained in good clean and working condition. He must also ensure that any tank, cistern etc used for water storage (for drinking or other domestic purposes) is kept in good clean and working condition. There must be a cover kept over it to keep the water clean etc. Any water fitting which is liable to be damaged by frost must be protected from frost damage. It is the landlords responsibility to protect from frost the pipes, taps, stop cocks, valves, meters, cisterns, baths, w.cs etc.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System

Under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System defects in sanitation drainage and water supply are hazards. If this hazard exists at the property the local authority can carry out a Housing Health and Safety Rating System assessment. If the risk is sufficiently serious as a result of this hazard that it is classified as a Category 1 hazard then the local authority must take enforcement action against the landlord. If it is a less serious Category 2 hazard they have a discretion to do so. For more information about the Housing Health and Safety Rating System click here. Works may therefore be required as a result which could lead to the property being upgraded/improved to deal with a particular hazard.

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