Private water supplies: rights and responsibilities

Last updated: 5 March 2018

If you're a landlord, tenant or run a business or public activity

Registering your supply

Your local council's environmental health department must register your supply.

It's an offence to fail or refuse to give your local council the information it needs to register your supply.

If you're a tenant you have a right to know if you're using a private water supply.

You must not make changes to the system without your landlord's approval.

If you're a landlord, the new private water supplies regulations apply to your property.

You may receive information about this from your local council. You should let your tenants know that they're using a private water supply.

What the register includes

The register contains information about:

  • your supply's location
  • the volume of water supplied and the number of people served by it
  • the ownership of the land where any part of the supply is installed
  • the source of the water
  • details of any treatments to the supply
  • grants awarded to you for the supply
  • risk assessments of the supply
  • sampling results and an investigations into the supply

Who the register's shared with

Information from the register about water quality may be shared with individuals or companies that make a request to your local council.

Your personal information won't be shared. The only information shared will be about water quality.

This can include copies of risk assessments, sampling results or past enforcements served in relation to the water.

If requested, your local council has a duty to provide information about water quality to:

Risk assessments and testing

You should risk assess and test your private water supply to make sure it's safe to drink.

Water management plans

Managing your private water supply effectively is key to making sure that the water you offer your tenants, clients and customers is always safe to drink.

If your business uses a private water supply, you can create a management plan that explains how the water's treated to your staff, and delegates responsibilities for maintenance.

Contact your local council to get help creating a plan.

Private water supply notices

You must also display a notice to let visitors, guests and staff know that they're drinking water from a private supply.

If you don't tell people that they're drinking water from a private supply and they become ill, they can take legal action against you.

If you have a water source, water pipes or tanks that other people are using

You should read the original title deed or tenancy agreement for your property to establish who is responsible for what. Your responsibilities are stated in these legal documents, or in informal arrangements.

Formal agreements sometimes allow individuals to use a water source, but the source owner does not accept responsibility for the quality of the water.

If water pipes or tanks are on someone else's land

If you're a landowner, and someone else's pipes or tanks are on your land, you can't prevent them from getting access to them for maintenance or repair. If you do, a local council could serve you a notice.

But unless it's been previously agreed in a contract or informal arrangement, you aren't liable for costs.

Relevant persons

Local councils can serve notices on 'relevant persons'.

This is someone who, individually or collectively, owns, occupies the premises, or has responsibility for or control of any part of the private water supply system. Or control of the water itself.

When deciding who the relevant person is, local councils must consider any agreement, contract, or license relating to the terms on which the water is supplied.

Being a relevant person means you have a legal responsibility to comply with notices that you may get from your local council.

There's nothing in the legislation that specifies who must pay for risk assessments and water testing if there's a private let or shared land ownership. (Any relevant person is technically liable.)

This means landlords can pass the costs of a risk assessment or water testing on to tenants. If you are a tenant, you can check your tenancy agreement for more detail.

Your water supply also has to be tested regularly to make sure it is good quality.

The fees for this should be paid by the owner of the property, but you may want to check if it is included in your rent as your landlord may try to pass the cost on to you.

You may have to negotiate with them about this.

If you're a tenant and you want to challenge your landlord's decision, you should read your tenancy agreement, then get support from a solicitor or your local council.

There is nothing in law that says how much tenants can be charged in contracts, or how much landowners who supply water to others can charge them for it.

How to appeal against a notice

If you fail a test, your local council will work with you to improve your supply. If you refuse, you may be served a notice.

If you want to appeal your notice, you must do this within 14 days from the date you were notified about the determination.

While the appeal is pending, any actions which may be required to be undertaken by you are not enforceable under the Water (Scotland) Act 1980.

Your appeal will be heard by the Sheriff and their decision is final.

Private water supplies: rights and responsibilities
If you're a landlord, tenant or run a business or public activity