When is the City Responsible for Plumbing Repair?

A sewer line backup can be a nightmare. Not only is it disruptive to your life, it can also be quite costly. Obviously, a homeowner is responsible for their own plumbing system, but what if the clog is past your property line? Who’s responsible at that point, and who pays? The answer is that it probably depends on where you live. In fact, even in areas where the municipality can be held responsible, it’s often the homeowner who ends up paying anyway. 

When is the City Responsible for Plumbing Repair

Sewer Backups

Along with being a disruption and costly, sewer backups are also quite gross. When the sewer system clogs and backups, it’s usually the result of things being flushed that shouldn’t go into a toilet. Grease, non-flushable wipes, and hair are often the cause of clogs in a sewer line. While some can be fixed with a plunger or drain cleaner, others need a professional. 

Issues with a main sewer line usually need a professional, and are harder to fix. Along with clogs, tree roots can also inhibit the flow of water through sewer lines. As trees grow, their roots can penetrate sewer lines, and end up creating a blockage, which is both difficult and expensive to fix. Pipes made of older materials, like clay and orangeburg pipes, can eventually collapse. These problems are the homeowner’s responsibility, even if the tree isn’t on your property. 

Upper and Lower Lateral Pipes

Sewer laterals are the pipes that connect the wastewater from your home to the main sewer line. Homeowners are responsible for issues with the laterals, while the city or town is responsible for the main sewer line. There are two types of laterals: upper and lower. The upper lateral runs from your home to the property line, which is often the curb or a sidewalk. The lower lateral connects the upper lateral to the main sewer line. A lot of homeowners assume that issues with the lower lateral pipe are not their problem, because it is not on their property. Unfortunately for them, the homeowner is responsible for both lateral lines. Repairing the lower lateral line can be more expensive, as it may involve digging up the sidewalk. 

When is the Municipality Responsible?

For cities and towns, their responsibility revolves around issues with the main sewer line. If there are blockages in the main sewer line, the municipality would be responsible for clearing the issue. The main sewer lines carry waste from homes and businesses, meaning that clogs can happen quite easily. When this happens, it’s possible for residential areas to experience sewer backups. If this happens, you’ll have to contact your local municipality, and let them know what’s happening. 


Let’s say you need to have the lateral line fixed. This is an expensive repair. Will insurance kick in to help out? That depends on a number of factors, depending on your homeowner’s insurance. A big determining factor on whether insurance will help is the cause of the blockage or broken pipe. For instance, if it’s from wear and tear, it’s doubtful that insurance would cover it. If the cause is faulty workmanship or an accident or an act of vandalism, insurance is more likely to help cover the costs. How much insurance covers is determined on your insurance carrier, the plan you have, and the circumstances.

Video Inspections

Having a professional plumber conduct a video inspection of your sewer lines is a good way to check for damage, and ensure your pipes are in working order. Signs of a problem include slow drains, overflows and backups, and wet patches in your yard. Finding a problem early can be cost effective, especially in the long run. 

A video inspection allows your plumber to see exactly what’s wrong, and develop a plan on how to fix it. You’ll also be able to see what’s wrong through the video. It’s one of the best technologies available for making sure your pipes are in working order. 

If you have concerns about the pipes in your plumbing system, don’t ignore them – call the licensed professionals at Pratt Plumbing. Schedule an appointment today at (806) 373-7866.

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