When it comes to typical plumbing issues, the responsible party is almost always the homeowner. Water flows into your home from the local utility so any failure is almost always after the water gets to your home. Your sewer system is just the opposite – the waste flows out. The answer to who is responsible varies with where you live and where the backup or damage occurred.
In the greater Puget Sound area (to the best of our knowledge) only Bellevue, Everett and the Sous Creek sewer district (which services parts of Renton's and Kent's east hills) cover repairs needed in the right of way (the yellow highlighted portion between the properly line and the public system).
Every other municipality or sewer / water district requires the home or property owner to bear the responsibility of any repairs necessary up to the point where the sewer lines meet the Sewer Main.
This can be tremendously expensive. The Seattle landscape (lots of hills) often requires the gravity feed sewer line be very deep. By the time a home owner were to pay for the removal of the asphalt street, excavate and remove (by dump truck) soil down to the sewer pipe under the street - say to 20' deep or so - replacing a short section of sewer pipe - say 6' long or so - and then replace the removed soil and the repair / repave asphalt street, the cost could easily be $20,000 or more. It is very expensive and people only learn of this when it happens to them. It's financially debilitating for most.
It is impossible to prevent damage (ground shifts, root growth) but as with other systems in our homes, our cars and even our own bodies, a little preventative maintenance can save you plenty.
Inspect the sewer line. If you are moving in to a new home, have the sewer line checked as part of the home inspection or require it as a condition even if youneed to pay the cost yourself. There are a number of firms, us included, with the ability to do inspections looking for potential trouble and expensive repairs.
An inspection can reveal where clogs are forming, small cracks which could enlarge causing a collapse and tree roots making their way or growing in your sewer lines. Each far less expensive to resolve than having to replace an entire section of piping.
If you’ve been in your home for some time, an inspection is still a good idea. It will provide comfort knowing everything is OK or allow us to come out to prevent a bigger issue later.
Watch what you flush / put down the drain. Fibrous materials, large food scrapes, grease and even ‘flushable’ products are best recycled or tossed in the trash. They may break down over time (except for grease) but until then, they can build up in the line. Continue adding more and you’ll certainly create a backup.
Backups in sewer lines may be able to be cleared, but that isn’t always the case.
If you are all concerned about the condition of your sewer lines or would like more information about who might be responsible if something were to fail, please contact us.