Who Is Responsible for Sewer Line Repair in Arizona: City or Homeowner?

2016 Jul 19
Posted in: Plumbing

Tree Roots Destroy Pipes
Example of how tree roots can completely destroy your sewer line and leave you footing the bill.

Photo source: George Brazil Plumbing 

So all of a sudden you’re faced with a nasty (and expensive) sewer issue.

But now you’re wondering who’s actually responsible for sewer line repairs.

Every city has slight variations to this rule but most cities, including those in Arizona, state that homeowners are responsible for any maintenance, repairs or work needed on the sewer lateral lines.

In this article, we’ll explain:

  • What lateral lines are
  • What you as a homeowner are responsible for
  • What to do when you need sewer line repairs

Homeowners are responsible for “sewer lateral lines”

The sewer lateral lines (otherwise known as private laterals) is the part of the sewer line that runs from your house and connects to the sewer main in the street.

Homeowners own and are responsible for these lateral lines. 

Sew Lateral Lines
Photo source: Riversideca.gov

For example, the City of Phoenix Municipal Code 28-5(a) states that…

The property owner shall be responsible for the cleaning, unstopping, maintenance and repair of the building connection piping serving the owner’s property from the home or building to the public sewer line, except for repair or replacement of damaged or broken piping in the public right-of-way serving a single-family or duplex property.

Do home warranties or homeowner’s insurance policies cover sewer line repairs?

Tough question.

It really depends on your particular policy. But most basic homeowner’s insurance won’t cover sewer line repairs, especially if the damage occurs outside the “footprint” of your home’s foundation or is a result of aging and “wear and tear”. 

However, some home warranties do cover the cost of sewer line repairs. 

This site gives you a better idea of what’s covered under a basic home warranty.

But, remember, to get a true answer as to whether your home warranty or home insurance policy covers your particular sewer line repair, contact your insurance or warranty company directly.

What to do when you need a sewer line repair

If you’re in need of a sewer line repair, the faster you act the better you’re able to protect your home (and your wallet) from further damage. 

The first thing you need to do is hire a professional plumbing company that you trust to handle the job.

Once you’ve hire a licensed contractor, their process will look something like this:

Step 1: Clear standing water/sewage in the line
First, it will need to be determined exactly where the line needs to be repaired and what kind of repair is needed.

To do this your plumber will first need to get the sewage and water in the line to go down a bit. This is done by either running a sewer cable (drain snake) down the line or possibly a high pressure water jet. A water jet is a machine designed for cleaning drains and sewer with controlled high pressure water.

This step needs to be completed first otherwise the standing water or sewage in the line will prevent the damage from being visible in the next step.

Step 2: Determine the damage
Next your plumber will need to inspect your sewer lines. If your contractor offers video inspections of your sewer lines, opt for this service. 

Video inspections are the most accurate way to diagnose your sewer issue. They cut down on time and decrease the potential for unnecessary repairs/replacement. The plumber will be able to show you in real time, exactly what the issue is on their video screen and give you some options.

Step 3: Access the sewer line
Your sewer lines run underground, so accessing them will require excavation.

Occasionally, depending on how the sewer line is installed and how the property is landscaped this can be a rather large undertaking. It may require not only excavation, but cutting and removing concrete, and/or the removal of plants, or trees as well.

Step 4: Repair or replacement
Once the damaged portion of the pipe is accessed, your plumber will need to either repair or replace your line. 

A sewer line repair involves replacing just the damaged or broken section of sewer pipe, whereas a replacement of the damaged sewer means going from the closest point of connection at the home to the connection of the city owned line. 

Depending on the extent of the damage though, your plumber may be able to use a “trenchless” alternative that prevents damage to your landscaping.

Note: if it’s determined that you need to replace your sewer line, you may need to get a permit from your city to make sure everything is up to code.

In need of a Phoenix plumber?

George Brazil offers certified plumbers who can help with any sewer line repair.

We offer advanced camera inspections that help get your sewer repair done quickly and correctly, the first time. We also offer trenchless sewer repair or replacement technologies.

Contact us today to get an estimate on your sewer line repair or replacement.

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