Sewer Lateral Ordinance in Santa Cruz City

The City of Santa Cruz is working on enacting a new city ordinance that places more regulations on privately owned sewer laterals. A sewer lateral is an underground pipe that connects a home to the main city sewer line under the street. The sewer lateral is the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain, not the city’s.

What is the ordinance?

This ordinance will require sewer laterals to be inspected by a qualified inspector, such as your local plumber, when a property in Santa Cruz City is sold. Depending on the condition of the sewer lateral, repairs may also be required. At this point, it appears that the responsibility for the inspection and any necessary repairs will be negotiable terms of sale, either the buyer or seller can pay.

Photo Courtesy of Coastal Watershed Council

The ordinance has not passed yet. All elected officials and city staff I have heard talk about this make it sound as if this ordinance is inevitable, and they are still working out the details.

How are sewer laterals inspected?

A qualified inspector will send a robotic drone with a camera into the sewer lateral to record video and photographs of the inside of the pipe. The pictures will then be analyzed and the extent of any damage will be graded.

Photo Courtesy of Coastal Watershed Council


What do homeowners and buyers need to know?

Consult with your trusted Realtor and fiduciary to learn how this ordinance might affect you.

The goal of the sewer lateral ordinance is to inform all parties to a real estate transaction about what is happening underground. It is not currently common for sewer laterals to be inspected when a property is sold, leaving buyers in the dark about possible issues. The city is trying to protect buyers, keep the local environment clean, and hold homeowners responsible when deferred maintenance results in a sewage leak or spill.

Please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below if you are considering a real estate transaction and have any questions, comments, or concerns about this proposed ordinance.

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