Sewer Lateral Inspections and Mandated Repairs

Tom Brezsny
- Tom Brezsny

Sewer Lateral Inspections and Mandated Repairs

Last week we covered the basics of the new “stealth” sewer lateral regs calling for video inspections on each home sale. Email me at getreal@ for a copy of the new rules.

Did I mention that everyone hooked up to the County sewer is required to have their laterals flushed every18 months? It isn’t clear what the punishment is for not cleaning those lines but from the vantage point of someone who interacts with lots of homes and homeowners, what’s clear to me is that almost no one is going to comply.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an issue with the notional intent behind the new regs – lowering sewer treatment costs. The issues I do have are about the process: 1) This is, in part, a financial workaround for the County’s own deficient infrastructure and 2) This is a de facto way of making Realtors responsible for the education and enforcement of their public policy.

Sewer Lateral Inspections and Mandated Repairs is another in a long list of local, state and federal regs that have been attached to the already complicated process of selling a home. See: low flow plumbing devices, pool fencing safety ordinances, water heater strapping, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, FIRPTA regulations, to name just a few…

In an era of large deficits and aging infrastructure, here’s how governmental agencies use the real estate process to do an end-run: First they create regulations. Then they tell Realtors, knowing that if they ignore the guidelines like individual homeowners are likely to do, they’ll open themselves up to future litigation from both buyers and sellers should anything “surface” down the road later in their sewer lateral situations.

In other words, Realtors get to break the news about this ordinance to homeowners. They are responsible for educating them. And they have to make sure that the inspections and any required work on lateral lines gets done or…they can get sued.

Off the top of my head I can come up with dozens of scenarios that are going to cause unexpected hardships and delays for unsuspecting homeowners trying to sell their homes. I’ve already experienced a few.

My own feeling is that there should be a temporary moratorium to solicit input from homeowners and Realtors. They should hold public forums rather than trying to fly under the radar by penalizing individual sellers one at a time. County Supervisors should begin getting input from their constituents. The current “underground” enforcement policy is disingenuous and unfair to individual homeowners.

It there are breaks, offsets, roots, holes, bad connections, etc., they will prescribe necessary fixes.

Houses can’t close escrow until repairs are completed. And in most instances plumbers cannot be paid out of escrow.

So let’s stop there and let that information slosh through the laterals of your brain. Next week we’ll explore ways the new ordinance could affect the outcome of your next home sale. Meanwhile, email me for a homeowner’s info packet on sewer laterals.

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