Are You or The City Responsible for the Main Sewer Lines?

Ever wonder who’s responsible for fixing the sewer line from your home to the street? It’s a question we all need to know the answer to, because fixing those pipes can get expensive real quick!

In this article, we’re gonna break down who’s responsible for the pipes on your property and under the street. Plus, we’ll give you the skinny on how to avoid those pricey repairs.

Who’s Responsible for the Sewer Lines From Your Home to Street?

Upper Main Sewer Lateral
Who’s responsible for sewer line issues depends on the exact location of the problem.

The main sewer line running from any property to the street is an integral part of the plumbing system. This being so, it’s important – for various reasons – to determine who is responsible for its maintenance and repair. 

Responsibility may fall on either the homeowner or the city (or municipality), but this hinges on the precise location of the issue in question. 

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but in most cases, the homeowner is the responsible party, and thus responsible for any costs associated with upkeep and repair. 

In this post, we’ll provide further insight into this topic and help you understand your responsibilities as regards any issues with your house-to-street sewer line.

Main Sewer Line Repair: Key Takeaways

  • City responsible for the main public line only.
  • The property owner is responsible for both the upper and lower lateral pipes. A common misconception is that the city is responsible for the lower lateral pipe (which runs) under the street.
  • Most insurance plans won’t cover “wear and tear”, meaning the associated costs of main drain pipe repairs falls on the homeowner.
  • Speak to a professional plumber to determine the issue, and get a cost estimate for repairs.

Who’s Responsible for Sewer Lines?

To give you a quick answer, in most cases the homeowner is responsible for the sewer lines running from their property. However, not every city has the same rules and regulations, so let’s unpack our quick answer a little.

Municipal Sewer System Main Underground Sewer Pipe: City’s Responsibility

Municipal Utility workers cleaning a clog in the public sewer main
Typically the city is only responsible for the public sewer main

In the majority of cities, the city is responsible for only the city sanitary system, which consists of the city’s main line and the treatment facilities. However, this is not a universal truth, and you should check with your local municipality.

This means the city is responsible for backups and blockages like fatbergs in the public sewer main.

Upper and Lower Lateral Sewer Lines: Homeowners Responsibility

The homeowner’s responsibility typically extends to the “sewer lateral.” This is the pipe running from their property line to the public sewer main

Sewer laterals consist of an upper lateral and lower lateral. Upper laterals run from the house to your property line and lower laterals run from your property line to the main line. 

Installing upper lateral sewer line in owners yard
The homeowner is normally responsible for both the upper and lower laterals.

It’s a common misconception that the city is responsible for sewer lines running under the sidewalk and pavement. This is generally not true, making the homeowner responsible for both upper and lower laterals.

Is Sewer Repair Covered by Your Insurance?

Sewer repair can be costly, so it’s important to know if it is covered by insurance. Generally, coverage will only extend to poor workmanship, vandalism, or an accident. However, repair costs due to stormwater backup are typically covered.

As most cases of damage to the sewer lines are due to a lack of maintenance, most homeowner insurance coverage won’t extend to repairing your pipes. However, it is always best to check with your provider to confirm if you have insurance coverage.

Causes of Backups in the Sewer System & How to Prevent Them

causes of sewer line problems graphic
There are multiple reasons you are experiencing problems with your main sewer drain line.

Sewer backups can be caused by a variety of factors. These include a buildup of grease and debris, tree roots infiltrating broken pipes, a pipe bursting, or even a complete collapse of the entire line. 

To avoid these issues, it is crucial to establish a regular maintenance routine. This includes cleaning the lines and septic tank to maintain water pressure, removing any potential blockages caused by tree roots or debris, and installing backflow prevention devices. 

Additionally, property owners should be mindful of what they flush down the toilet and pour down the drain. Avoiding the disposal of non-degradable items such as sanitary products, wipes, and paper towels. 

With these precautions in place, homeowners can reduce the risk of sewer backups and ensure the proper functioning of their pipes.

Sewer Line Repair or Replacement

Installing sewer pipes in someones home
Repair or replacement can be expensive, and we would advise you to contact a professional.

When it comes to fixing a damaged line, the solution is not always straightforward. That’s why, before any repairs can be made, a thorough camera inspection is crucial to determine the exact nature of the issue.

In cases where the problem pipe is not severely damaged, a trenchless repair method called “pipe bursting” may be employed. However, if you have a back-pitched upper lateral or a damaged pipe collapse, a conventional sewer line replacement will be necessary. This involves excavation and the digging of a trench.

Before you consider tackling the repair work by yourself to save money, there are a few things worth noting. First of all, obtaining a permit from the local government before commencing any work is mandatory. Furthermore, the specific rules and regulations regarding sewer line replacement or repair vary from state to state and should be thoroughly researched.

While performing the repair work on your own can lead to cost savings, it’s important to be aware of the physical demands of the job. Digging a trench to those pipes, especially in colder climates, can be a strenuous task. In some cases, lines may be as deep as 6 feet below the frost level.

Our advice would be to contact a plumber to assess the cause of the issue, get an estimate of the cost of repairs, and take it from there.

Signs of Main Sewer Line Plumbing Issues

bathroom sink drain backing up (1)
Wastewater backups, gurgling sounds, slow drainage and foul odors could indicate an issue with your sewer main.

The main signs of a blocked or damaged main sewer line include:

  • Slow-draining sinks, toilets, and tubs
  • gurgling sounds in the pipes
  • Wastewater backups in the shower, tub basement drain
  • Foul odors coming from drains. 

If you experience any of these signs, it’s important to check your sewer line and take action quickly to avoid more serious repairs and costly damage to your home and property.

In some cases, a simple cleaning of the sewer line to remove the clog may be enough to restore proper flow. In others, a more extensive repair or replacement of part or the entire length of the line may be necessary.

Let’s repeat that main takeaway: It’s crucial to take care of any problems with your sewer line promptly to avoid the risk of flooding, damage to your home and property, and other issues.

The Sewer Line From House to Street: Who’s Responsible for It?

It is unfortunate to note that the responsibility for the repair or replacement of sewer pipes usually falls on the property owner. However, we highly recommend confirming this with your local city administration for complete certainty.

We hope you found our article informative and if you have any further questions or suggestions, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

About the author

An accomplished plumber with more than 15 years of experience in the industry, David "Fitz" Fitzgerald began as an apprentice and steadily worked his way up to become a fully licensed and certified master plumber.

With extensive training in all aspects of plumbing. David is well-versed in the installation, repair, and maintenance of plumbing systems, including pipes, fixtures, and appliances, and is able to troubleshoot and solve even the most complex plumbing issues.

He loves to share his wealth of knowledge and looks forward to engaging with the community here on No Hassle Plumbing.

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