Complaint against Thames Water Utilities Limited regarding work in private land


Case number


Summary of case

This dispute was referred to us for determination under section 181 of the Water Industry Act 1991. This section deals with complaints about how water and sewerage companies exercise their powers when they carry out work on private land.

Summary of Ofwat’s final decision

The complaint was about whether Thames Water caused the Complainants loss, damage or inconvenience through carrying out work in their property’s garden.

In summary, we determined that Thames Water did cause inconvenience and damage to the Complainants. This is because due to the length of time taken to complete the works, the Complainants were unable to access their garden for a significant amount of time over the summer period. This lack of access resulted in the Complainants being unable to maintain the plants in their garden, resulting in damage and them incurring costs to replace them.

We considered whether Thames Water should pay the Complainants compensation in recognition of the above failure. We concluded that Thames Water should pay the Complainants £250.

Wider lessons for companies and customers

Water companies have the power to lay, inspect, maintain and repair or alter pipes falling on private land. This power is exceptional and very few companies or bodies outside of the utility industry are permitted to do this. It is a power that must be exercised responsibly as customers can perceive it as being invasive.

In general, we expect water companies to exercise their powers in accordance with the Act and in a manner which does not result in the land owner sustaining any loss or damage.

In this case, whilst the Complainants did not dispute that the company had provided them with adequate notice of the works they were to undertake, we consider that the notice served by Thames Water could have been more descriptive and provided further detail regarding the extent and duration of the works that were required. This could have helped the Complainants to better understand and accept the period of disturbance they would be subject to and help minimise subsequent dispute about the works.

Relevant powers

Sections 159 and 181 of the Water Industry Act 1991

Relevant Ofwat guidance

Work on private land – Ofwat

Relevant Documents

Final Determination of a dispute under section 181 of the Water Industry Act 1991

Date opened

9 June 2023

Date closed

16 November 2023


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