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A Build Over Agreement (BOA) may be required when building an extension to your home. This is a legal agreement between you and your water company that guarantees that your work will not only not negatively affect a public sewer located underneath or near the boundary of your building and that they will still have a way to access the sewer if and when repair and maintenance work is required. Ever wondered how a home extension or other residential construction project might affect the logistics of life on your street or in your neighbourhood? Well, that’s exactly what a build over agreement does, focussing on the impact of building work on water pipes and sewage lines

What exactly is a ‘Build Over Agreement?

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A build over agreement is a legal agreement between you (the homeowner) and your water company, which states that any work you have done on your home will not impact the company’s access to the sewer and that your work will not negatively impact the structure of the public sewer near to or beneath your property.

It is, in essence, a way of ensuring that any work you have done will not have a negative effect on the water and sewage of your neighbourhood, and that you guarantee you will not impact the accessibility of the water company to that sewage pipe.

When to Know if I Need a Build Over Agreement?

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A Build Over Agreement is required by water companies for any construction work over public sewers or within 3m of one. This obligation is even enshrined as a covenant in the Deeds of some more modern properties.

Approval from the water company needs to be obtained prior to building work commencing on site. There is however a potential catch; even where a waste pipe only serves your property and is therefore classed as a private drain, if you want to build within 1m of the boundary where it exits on your land some water companies still require a Build Over Agreement, so it’s worth checking with them.

A build over agreement tends to be necessary when you planning on a house extension or any construction work which lies within 3m of a public sewer. The agreement states that approval needs to be obtained from the water company before a project can commence, with drainage surveys providing homeowners with a quick and easy way of assessing their potential need for a build over agreement. 

It is worth noting that the build over agreement and its terms are just as beneficial to the homeowner as they are to the water company, as damage to a public sewer can negatively impact the structure of your home and leave you with sewage flooding around your home. 

Why do I Need a Build Over Agreement?

The main purpose of a Build Over Agreement is firstly to ensure that the sewer doesn’t get damaged and secondly to retain access for the water company to carry out its legal duty to repair and maintain sewers.

Getting the drainage design checked in advance via a drainage survey should also rule out any risk that the extra weight of your new extension could cause the sewer to collapse resulting in structural damage to your home, blocking foul drainage from other properties and turning your garden into a cesspool! In other words, it’s a sensible precaution. 

In some situations there may be a temptation to press ahead with building the extension without first obtaining agreement, particularly where your proposed foundations only encroach a few centimetres into the stipulated 3m exclusion zone around the sewer. The trouble is, if the water company become aware of this violation, perhaps getting the nod from building control, they could force you to stop work on site, or even take down any building erected over the public sewer.

And without the necessary approval documents from the water company, building control will not sign off the all-important Completion Certificate, which you need when it comes to selling or remortgaging the house.

How to Apply for a Build Over Agreement 

As well as the completed application form and payment of the appropriate fee you will need to submit some basic scale drawings of your house, extension and drainage system. Typical examples are listed below. Water suppliers may have slightly different requirements. You can normally base these on modified copies of the drawings used for planning applications

  • A plan showing the existing house and drainage layout, including the location of the inspection chamber(s) and the sewer with the direction of flow marked.  
  • A plan showing your proposed extension and drainage layout, again noting the position of the sewer and inspection chambers. Where the extension covers the sewer (i.e. you’re building over it) you need to show where any existing manhole is to be removed and replaced with a new chamber in the garden. 
  • A site location plan. This is simply an outline OS type plan of the street showing the position of your plot in relation to the road and neighbouring buildings.  
  • A cross section drawing. This is only required if you’re building directly over the sewer or within 1.5m of it. This needs to clearly show the new foundations in relation to the sewer pipe and details of how you propose to bridge over the pipe (i.e. with concrete lintels).

How long do applications take to process?

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The better the information you provide, the smoother your experience will be. Applications are normally processed within three weeks and, provided you have given over all the relevant information, the work can commence as soon as the application has been processed and approved. 

Delays are generally subject to missing drawings and information, so take the time to ensure you get everything you need into your application.

What happens once it’s approved?

If your application is approved, it’s time to get to work – albeit under the watchful eye of the building control department of your water company, who will perform regular inspections to ensure that the drainage provision is unaffected by your project. 

Are there any alternatives?

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Possibly the easiest option you have is to change your design or extension plans to avoid the sewage issue altogether. Build over agreements are required when your project goes over or within 3m of the sewage pipe system, so avoiding this proximity will ensure that you don’t need to send an application at all. 

Another option you have is to divert the sewer in order to avoid your extension, though again you will need to seek permission from the water company to do this and you will likely find that the input from a professional design company raises the cost of your project exponentially. 

Property Contractors 247 is always on hand to discuss the finer points of applications such as the build over the agreement and can provide advice and guidance on submitting your application to ensure the best possible chance of success.Get in touch with us for more information 020 7916 2087

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