If you've recently suffered a sewage backup or clog that can't be cleared with bottles of commercial drain cleaner, you may be facing the unpleasant prospect of having your sewer inspected and potentially replaced. Although this is generally a cost borne by the homeowner when stemming from interior plumbing problems, in some cases the source of a sewage backup may be unclear. If you suspect that your sewer problems are due to another's actions -- or stem from the city or county's failure to maintain central sewer lines -- you may be wondering whether you're fairly on the hook for repair costs. Read on to learn more how apportionment of sewer repair costs may be determined, as well as what you can do to attempt to recover these costs from those responsible.
Under what circumstances may someone else be responsible for your sewer repair costs?
If you're hooked up to a central sewage line that's maintained by a city or county, problems with this sewage line that cause backups to your interior lines may be the responsibility of this jurisdiction. Whether a pipe has burst on the city's watch and has not yet been repaired, or a significant clog is causing sewage backups for you and your neighbors, you'll want to contact your city or county's waste management department as soon as possible to determine when repairs will be made.
However, this public-owned central line is often farther away than you might think -- and problems stemming from your sewer lateral (the line that travels from your home to the central line) are often to blame, rather than problems with the central line itself. If you live in a detached, single-family home, blockages or other issues in your sewer lateral are your responsibility to repair, unless you can show that a certain blockage actually originated from the central sewage pipe you don't own.
If you live in a condominium or other shared-wall structure, your sewer lateral is usually shared with a number of other units. In this situation, it's likely that ownership of this pipe is also shared. It can often be unclear as to which condo owner's action caused the clog, and absent clear evidence that one specific person is responsible, the cost of sewer repairs may be borne by all owners or even the homeowners association (HOA).
Sewer backups associated with a flood (as rising water prevents the sewage pipes from draining normally) are generally not attributable to the entity maintaining the sewer. Floods and other "acts of God" are more often coverable by an insurance policy, although you'll usually need separate sewer backup coverage as a rider to this policy (as most homeowners insurance policies have very limited coverage for flood damage, absent a few exceptions).
What should you do if you aren't sure you should have to pay for your sewer repair or replacement?
The first step -- before blame for a sewage problem can be properly apportioned -- is to determine exactly where the problem originated. If a significant clog is blocking the central pipe rather than the sewer lateral, it may be fairly simple to argue that this central line clog is causing problems with your sewer, and that the city or county is liable for your repair costs due to their failure to maintain the central line.
If the clog or blockage is in your sewer lateral, the issue becomes a bit trickier. A sewer repair specialist may be able to use a video camera on a long retractable snake to examine the inside of your pipe to determine what the clog is composed of. If you're able to show that the clog belongs to someone else (for example, if the clog includes small toys, crayons, or other items which may have been flushed down the toilet by a curious child), you may have a good shot at requiring the responsible party to pay for any sewer repair costs you may incur.
However, you don't want to wait to repair your sewer until you can determine who will pay -- so if you're unable to flush your toilet or have no running water, your first priority should be to restore this service. Just be sure to save your receipts so that seeking prompt and proper reimbursement from responsible parties will be easier. For sewer repairs or replacement, visit a company online at a site like http://www.drainorooter.com.