Whose Mess Is This? When Is a Problem the City’s or Yours?

Whose Mess Is This? When Is a Problem the City’s or Yours?

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If you’ve had issues with your plumbing and sewer lines, you’re probably wondering where the responsibility for the sewer or plumbing issue belongs with your city or municipality. When your pipes back up, it may be because you have clogs in the drains in your home – or it may be due to larger clogs in the main sewer lines.

Who is responsible for the sewer line repair when things go wrong? It depends on where, exactly, the plumbing issue originates. Our guide will help you understand what to expect in the event of a necessary plumbing repair.

Your Sewer System – A Primer

Part of understanding when and where you’re responsible for handling plumbing repair to the sewer lines and when removing the clogs or performing repairs falls on the city involves a little rudimentary knowledge of the sewer pipe system itself.

The Main Line

The main sewer line takes the wastewater from several houses and carries it to the municipal wastewater treatment plant. Any issues with the main line itself are the city’s responsibility, including removing clogs and fixing burst pipes. The sewer main is located just outside the boundaries of the property owners in the area.

Determining where the problem may be yours may benefit from a current property survey. Knowing exactly where your property lines are and where they are concerning the city sewer main may go a long way towards determining what, if any, responsibility for plumbing repair lies.

Your Lines

If the sewer issues stem from pipes that run off the main line, especially if it’s clearly on your property, plumbing repair becomes your responsibility. In these cases, it’s generally attributed to a plumbing “user error” on your part, such as flushing stuff that shouldn’t be flushed (only waste and toilet paper, please) or pouring cooking grease down the kitchen sink. There are other causes for sewer problems, but if it’s a problem with just your lines, and on your property, then you’re the one who shoulders the financial responsibility.

There are two types of pipes that run from the house to the main sewer line, the upper laterals and the lower laterals. The upper lateral carries the sewer waste from your house, both, the cleanout from the building, and the rest of your property line. It then joins the lower lateral beneath the street. The lower lateral runs from the boundary of your property line to the main sewer line. While this section of the sewer pipe technically isn’t on your property, you may still be responsible for damage to this area, especially if the damage is due to clogs in the pipes or from tree root systems exerting pressure on the pipes and joining seams.

When the Sewer Problems Are Your Responsibility

Therefore, plumbing repair of the lines that come directly from your property is almost always your responsibility, even if the issue is with the lower lateral pipe system. The city has a responsibility to ensure that these repairs are completed promptly and that the repairs meet local building codes and sanitation regulations.

In the cases where fixing the sewer line issue involves disruption to a sidewalk or a road, you have to involve the city. In many cases, your local plumbing repair company will advise you on what the steps for permitting are and how to go about it.

When you have a plumber come out for sewer line repair, they’ll use a small camera to inspect the issues and determine where the clogs or breaks are located. Their findings can go a long way toward determining whose mess this is! Ask for documentation and a copy of the inspection video, just in case your insurance company or the city needs proof.

Will My Insurance Cover Sewer Line Repair?

When you choose a homeowner’s insurance policy or renter’s policy, check your coverage for sewer line repairs. In some cases, an insurance adjuster may ask how the problem was caused – did you flush too many baby wipes and feminine hygiene problems down the commodes, for example. In other cases, the problem may be covered if the cause is determined to be from an outside agency.

It’s always best to discuss the financial responsibility for common problems before taking out an insurance policy. If you’re renting, check your lease for plumbing responsibility, and if it looks like you’re responsible for some of it, ask for a renter’s insurance policy that covers unexpected emergencies.

When Is the City Responsible for Sewer Line Repairs?

The city is responsible for anything in the main sewer lines. This means anything outside the edge of your lower lateral pipeline is the city’s responsibility to fix. However, if there is damage to your property as a result of the main sewer line damage, you may have recourse for compensation from the city. It’s always best to consult with a professional in these cases, as circumstances and laws vary.

If you notice that all the drains in your home are backing up at once, then there’s a clog either in the lateral line or in the city’s main line. When this happens, it’s important to have a plumbing repair service do a camera inspection – if your home’s drains are backed up because the city’s sewer main is backed up, it may not be your responsibility to fix.

Bottom Line

Even if your plumbing seems to run smoothly, you should know who’s responsible when it doesn’t. In most cases, the homeowner is responsible for the sewer line from the house to the street. But even when the city sewer line is clogged, the repair costs could be assigned to you, depending on what, exactly, caused them.

Sewer clogs and the resulting plumbing repair can be expensive. It’s important to understand what your responsibilities are, when homeowner’s insurance covers the bill and, if you’re a tenant, whether it’s yours or the landlord’s responsibility to fix problems. Luckily, the team at your local bluefrog Plumbing + Drain is here to help – even for after-hours emergencies. Visit us online for the plumbing repair specialist nearest you, and don’t forget to save our number- just in case!

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