Broken Lateral Sewer Line

Broken Lateral Sewer Line: Determining Responsibility

When you become a homeowner, it’s important to understand who is responsible for various property elements. This scenario becomes particularly relevant when something goes wrong, for example, if there is an issue with the main water or sewer lines on your property. This blog will delve into the responsibilities of local authorities and homeowners when determining who is liable for damage or broken lateral sewer line. We will also offer insight into understanding, encompassing the costs associated with repairs and alternatives to traditional repair methods that can eliminate clogs and blockages in these pipelines. With this information, you’ll know what’s at stake should a problem arise and how best to resolve it without breaking the bank!

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Older Homes Face the Highest Risk

Newer homes can rest easy regarding sewer line concerns, but older homes often raise red flags. Old sewer lines, usually found beneath our roadways, sometimes deteriorate to the point of causing sinkholes. It signifies wear and tear on the pipes. Recently, a company approached us, offering insurance for our lateral sewer line connecting to the street, highlighting the growing demand for replacements as recognized by insurance providers.

Surprisingly, many homeowners mistakenly assume that the city is responsible for the sewer pipe connected to the street. However, the reality is quite different: property owners are responsible for the lateral sewer pipe connected to the city sewer main. This obligation extends even if the connection crosses the property boundary or is within an easement.

Defining a Lateral Sewer Line and Their Role in Wastewater Management

The lateral sewer line connects a property’s plumbing system and the main municipal sewer line. Specifically, it’s the underground pipeline responsible for transporting wastewater away from individual buildings and into the more extensive sewer system. Primarily found in residential and commercial properties, these lines are usually privately owned and maintained by property owners. The lateral line begins when a building’s plumbing connects to the more extensive public sewer system, often running under the property and the public right of way. Given its essential function in waste disposal, a properly functioning lateral sewer line is pivotal to maintaining a sanitary and efficient plumbing system.

Broke Sewer line Lateral

The Composition of a Lateral Sewer Line

Sewer laterals, commonly called lateral lines, are typically composed of different materials, including PVC (polyvinyl chloride), cast iron, or clay. The material selection relies on multiple considerations, such as local construction regulations, soil conditions, lateral line dimensions, and anticipated traffic volume.

PVC: The Most Popular Pipe Choice in Modern times

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a popular option for lateral lines because of its lightweight characteristics, ease of installation, and exceptional ability to resist corrosion and root intrusion. Another commonly chosen material is cast iron, renowned for its durability and extended lifespan, albeit being heavier and pricier compared to PVC. In the past, clay pipes served in sewer laterals, particularly in older residences, but their proneness to cracking and breakage has replaced them with more dependable alternatives.

When selecting the ideal material for a lateral line, consider local building codes and regulations. Certain regions may mandate specific materials for sewer laterals to ensure they adhere to safety and durability standards. Therefore, consulting with a licensed plumbing contractor or a knowledgeable building inspector is essential to pinpoint the most suitable material for your lateral line.

Identifying the Culprits: Common Causes of Lateral Sewer Line Damage

Numerous factors can contribute to the deterioration or damage of a lateral sewer line. Common causes include aging infrastructure, tree root intrusion, soil shifting, ground freezing or thawing, natural wear and tear, and the accumulation of grease, oil, or other debris within the pipes. Corrosion due to age or material breakdown also poses a significant risk. Furthermore, external forces such as construction activities or nearby excavation can inadvertently damage these lines. The susceptibility of lateral sewer lines to these factors underscores the importance of routine inspections and maintenance to prevent or identify issues before they become severe.

Signs of a Broken Lateral Sewer Line

Identify a broken lateral sewer line to prevent potential extensive damage. Signs of a damaged lateral line may include recurring sewage backups, foul odors emanating from drains, slow drainage, gurgling sounds from drains or toilets, or pooling water around the property. Additionally, if the property shows signs of sinkholes or depressions in the yard, it could indicate a severe issue with the lateral sewer line. Prompt attention and professional assessment upon noticing these symptoms are essential to prevent further damage and avoid potential health hazards associated with sewage leaks.

When Sewer Problems Extend Beyond Your Property: Contacting Your City’s Emergency Line

In the event of a sewer line leak, a licensed plumbing contractor like Murrieta Plumbing can inspect thoroughly by inserting a video camera down your sewer main to detect breaks or cracks. When homeowners identify a broken pipe between the house and the property line, they are responsible for repairing it. However, if the compromised pipe extends beyond the property line, your plumbing technician should promptly contact the City’s Sewer Emergency Line. An inspection can generally be scheduled shortly after the call, though completion may take up to 24 hours in some cases.

Your Home, Your Responsibility: Lateral Sewer Line Maintenance

As a homeowner, take responsibility for maintaining your lateral sewer line. This process means ensuring that your home’s drainage system functions correctly, preventing blockages, and promptly addressing any plumbing repairs or concerns relating to your sewer line.

The lateral sewer line is the underground pipe that runs from your home’s plumbing fixtures to the main sewer line or septic tank. Over time, the lateral sewer line can become damaged due to tree roots penetrating the pipes, shifting soil, or deterioration from age. To avoid such disasters, homeowners should schedule regular inspections and cleaning of their lateral sewer lines. Professional plumbers have the equipment and expertise to evaluate the health of the pipes and can detect early signs of damage before the situation escalates.

When Sewer Lines Cross: Navigating Municipal Responsibility for Lateral Line Issues

Determining municipal responsibility for lateral sewer line issues can be a complex matter. Typically, the commitment to preserving the lateral sewer line from one’s property to its junction with the public sewer primarily lies with the property owner. However, some municipalities may offer assistance or guidance in blockages or damage affecting the public sewer system. Consult with local authorities and review local regulations to understand the specific responsibilities in your area.

The Role of Local Government in Sewer Line Maintenance

Local governments play an important role in sewer line maintenance within their jurisdictions. They are responsible for managing and maintaining the public sewer system, which includes the main sewer lines and treatment facilities. Routine inspections, repairs, and upgrades are part of their responsibilities to ensure the efficient operation of the sewage infrastructure, promoting public health and environmental protection.

Factors that May Lead to Shared Responsibility

Shared responsibility in lateral sewer line issues can arise due to various factors. One common scenario is when the lateral sewer line serves multiple properties or connects to the main municipal sewer line. In these cases, different property owners may share a portion of the lateral line. Additionally, some municipalities may have specific ordinances or regulations that dictate shared responsibility based on the property’s proximity to the primary sewer system. Environmental factors, such as soil erosion or subsidence, can contribute to shared liability if they affect the lateral sewer line serving multiple properties.

Solving Your Problem: Best Methods of Replacing a Broken Sewer Lateral

Selecting the most effective method for repairing a damaged sewer line hinges on multiple variables, including damage location, pipe age, and soil conditions. Here are some prevalent approaches to address a broken sewer line:


This technique entails inserting a resin-coated flexible liner into the affected pipeSewerLateral-1024×576 and inflating it to form a seamless, new pipe within the old one; once the resin cures, it solidifies, creating a robust replacement pipe with a lifespan of several decades.

Pipe Bursting: 

In this method, we fracture the damaged pipe, enabling the pulling of a new pipe through the void it creates. Typically, new pipes, such as PVC or HDPE, are utilized, known for their resistance to corrosion and root intrusion.


Occasionally, the sole solution for a broken sewer line is to excavate the afflicted section and install a replacement. Even though this method is more invasive and expensive, it becomes imperative when extensive damage or age has deteriorated the existing pipes extensively.

Spot Repair: 

This procedure serves to rectify isolated sections of a damaged pipe, addressing issues like cracks or holes. It involves excising and substituting the damaged part with a new pipe area.

The choice of method is contingent on the unique circumstances of the sewer line issue, necessitating expert guidance to make an informed decision.

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