Homeownership comes with many responsibilities, with tasks you probably anticipated like keeping your lawn trimmed and maintaining appliances, to some things you never would have imagined. “Am I responsible for sewer line repairs?” is a question that homeowners ask themselves. It seems like a gray area. Is your sewer line part of your property, or does it belong to the city? The answer depends on where you live; if you live in Portland, Oregon, or Vancouver, Washington, the laws are clear.
Yes, you are responsible for sewer line repairs and they can be costly. In this blog, we will examine the laws related to sewer line repair in greater detail, so you can better understand your obligations and prepare for the possibility.
TO WHAT EXTENT ARE YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR SEWER LINE REPAIRS?
If you live in Portland or Vancouver, local statutes specify that you are responsible. But what exactly does that mean? Where does your responsibility end and the city’s begin?
First of all, you are responsible for sewer line repairs made within your property boundaries. That should come as no surprise, but unfortunately, your responsibility does not end at your property line. It extends further past it through an area called the “right-of-way.”
For most properties, the right-of-way starts at the end of your property line and extends through the sidewalk to the curb. Not every property has a sidewalk, so you can’t always use it to determine the right-of-way. Generally, the right-of-way extends from the end of your property line to the sewer main. A representative from the city can tell you exactly how far your right-of-way extends.
This is also why it’s a good idea to get a sewer scope inspection before you buy a property.
CALL BEFORE YOU DIG
In Portland and Vancouver, permits and inspections are required before work can begin. Your plumbing contractor can tell you which permits are needed and assist in obtaining them.
There is significant city infrastructure located underground – and without careful planning these pipes and cables can be easily damaged. Call Before You Dig was created to mark the location of this critical infrastructure so you know where not to dig. In Portland or Vancouver, the service can be reached at 811. You’ll get an appointment and a city worker will spray paint the location of any important underground infrastructure.
In both Oregon and Washington, the law states that you must call at least two business days before you begin digging.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE
You’re not always responsible for sewer line damage, but exceptions are rare. If it’s determined that damages to your sewer line were caused by actions done by the city or through their negligence, the city may be responsible.
If you believe this may be the case for you, contact the city right away and let them know. They will likely need to do an inspection before any determination can be made. This process can be frustratingly long, which is why it’s best to get started right away.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT DAMAGE TO YOUR SEWER LINE?
Given the high costs of repairing a damaged sewer line, it is a good idea to do everything you can to take care of your line and make sure it stays in good shape. Here are some great ways to get the most life out of yours:
Watch what you put down your pipes: Your pipes are designed to carry certain things like water and waste. Everything else that you flush or put down your pipes – like grease or “flushable” wipes (they’re not flushable) is a potential hazard. Try to limit these things as much as possible.
Pay attention to smells coming from your pipes: If there’s an “off” smell coming from your plumbing, that might mean something is stuck and decaying. Call a plumber to come take a look and assess the extent of the blockage. If it’s still early, you can save yourself a lot of trouble later on.
Beware of tree roots: Tree roots are one of the most common culprits of sewer line blockages, believe it or not. If your pipes were clogged, then the clog was cleared only for it to come back quickly, it may be a sign that tree roots have infiltrated your sewer line. Call a plumber right away because it will only get worse the longer you wait.
Be careful where heavy machinery goes: If you’re getting work done on your property, make sure that heavy machinery does not drive on top of where your sewer line is buried. The weight can crush your sewer line, leading to expensive leaks and cracks.
HOW DO YOU FIND SEWER LINE DAMAGE?
The good news is that we don’t need to dig up your sewer line to detect if there’s damage. At Pacific Pipe & Drain, we have sophisticated camera technology that goes into your pipes and allows us to visually inspect it all the way down to the sewer main.
This way, we can detect any problem – even if it’s small. Call us today to make an appointment for our non-invasive leak detection services.
NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT SEWER LINE REPAIR LAWS?
Now that you know the basics about the laws governing sewer line repairs in Portland and Vancouver, you might want to know more. These situations can get tricky, after all.
Check out the full text of sewer line repair laws for these two cities:
Portland Sewer Line Repair Laws
Vancouver Sewer Line Repair Laws