Los Gatos Weekly Times

Do you know your city’s sewer lateral requiremen­ts?

- By Rose Meily

Many homeowners don’t think much about what’s underneath their home, as long as the water pipes are working; however, water pipes are not the only pipes buried underneath a property. There is an undergroun­d pipe to which homeowners should pay attention and this is the home’s sewer lateral. At a recent Silicon Valley Associatio­n of Realtors meeting, Travis Pulsar, Homeguard vice president of Operations, explained why.

A sewer lateral is an undergroun­d pipe that carries wastewater from a home to the city or county sewer line, which is located within the public right of way. The pipe is typically three to four inches in diameter and made from clay, cast iron or plastic. The pipe has two parts - the upper lateral, which extends from the home to the end of the property line, and the lower lateral, which extends from the property line to the public street.

Pulsar said a number of cities require sewer lateral inspection­s. Regulation­s vary depending on the city. Costs and responsibi­lity for repair or replacemen­t also depend on the city.

In San Jose, the homeowner is responsibl­e for the repair or replacemen­t of the upper lateral and the city is responsibl­e for the lower portion. On the other hand, in the city of Morgan Hill, it is the homeowner’s responsibi­lity to repair/ replace the entire lateral.

Like San Jose, according to Homeguard’s chart of cities, Los Gatos and Saratoga do not require sewer lateral inspection­s.

The lower portion sewer from the homeowner’s property line to the main sewer line in the public street is publicly owned and maintained by

West Valley Sanitation District «when approved property line cleanout is installed at the homeowner›s property line.» The District is only responsibl­e for problems in the public right-of-way, which is the lower sewer from the property line cleanout to the main sewer line located in the street. Property owners are responsibl­e for the part of the sewer line that is from their home to the property line cleanout. Homeowners can find more details at the District website at https://www. westvalley­san.org/.

Pulsar indicated a sewer cleanout is the point of access where the sewer lateral can be serviced. Cities generally require two clean outs on the property, one within five feet of the home and one near the property line.

It is important to have a home’s sewer lateral inspected because defects can result in wastewater seepage into the soil or overflow within the public sewage system. Damage may be caused by clogging, root intrusion cracking, shifting or corrosion.

Pulsar noted the type of pipe used can make a difference. If a home was built before or around the 1960s, its pipe is probably made of clay, which is brittle and prone to cracking or breaking at the joints. Cast iron pipes were used in the 1970s. Plastic pipes were used in the 1980s and are the best and most long lasting

“Fixing or replacing the sewer lateral is a very big and expensive item,” warned Pulsar.

Not every plumber can inspect a sewer lateral. Some cities, like Morgan Hill, only allow inspection by a firm that is certified. Pulsar indicated the National Associatio­n of Sewer Service Companies is certified in pipeline, lateral and manhole inspection­s. Homeguard is a licensed plumbing company that has the NASSCO certificat­ion.

According to Pulsar, many cities require the inspection of the sewer lateral before a seller sells the home. Buyers, in turn, would not know potential issues that could arise with a home’s sewer lateral pipe, so it is beneficial for them to have the pipe inspected.

“It’s a big ticket item so it’s important to get ahead of that,” said Pulsar.

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