LAWLINK – What can I do about concerns of where my home’s water supply comes from?

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Q. I inherited my family home from my parents, who built it themselves on old family land in the 1960s. I am now in the process of downsizing and put my property up for sale. I also entered into contracts for the purchase of an alternative property subject to the sale of my own home. Contracts are exchanged, however an issue has arisen with regard to where my water supply comes from. The house my parents built is a rural house, but now there is an estate on one side of me and a ribbon of one-off houses on the other. My solicitor has been dealing with the matter, but she is now on maternity leave and there doesn’t seem to be anyone else in the office to deal with the matter at the moment. What would you suggest?

Dear Reader,

The first thing is to have the property surveyed and see if it can be ascertained where your water pipes lead.

Ideally, your water would flow from a public supply. You can ascertain same on writing to your Local Authority, who usually charge a nominal fee. If the water supply is in public charge, then there is no difficulty.

It might be possible that your water is supplied via a Group Water Scheme. These are administered locally, and an annual subscription would generally be levied – although sometimes these schemes are not actively run.

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It might be the case that there is a well or similar covered water source on your property. If the well is on your property, again there is no difficulty. If the well is on a neighbour property, you may need to obtain an ‘easement’ or formal legal right to the use of the supply.

You may also need to seek such an easement if, for example, your water flows from a private supply.

There are a number of different ways that you can seek an easement. The simplest way would be for your neighbour (and indeed the owner of any lands over which the water pipes might flow) to formally grant you the right. If they are uncontactable or unwilling to grant you the right, you can apply via the Property Registration Authority on the basis that you and your family have been in long use of the supply.

When you are looking into the above, you would be well advised to confirm the position with regard to wastewater, ensure that your septic tank (if you have one) is registered, is within your own property, and is working correctly.

Finally, I would suggest that you contact your solicitor’s secretary and ask them to inform the other side that you are investigating the matter and will revert to them as soon as possible. You of course will also have to contact possibly the auctioneer in relation to the purchase of the alternative property and let them know that there is a slight delay and that you are sorting matters out.