Santa Cruz County Sewer Lateral Inspection Program

Santa Cruz County Sewer Lateral Inspection


There are two:

The first new sewer lateral inspection program applies to properties located within unincorporated Santa Cruz County and connected to a public sewer main. Interestingly enough, this is actually not a “new” inspection ordinance but one that was lost in the county code until recently discovered and implemented.

The second sewer lateral program is for properties located within the City of Santa Cruz and will not be implemented until July of this year (more information on this one coming soon, so stay tuned on my blog).

The sewer inspection program we are talking about today applies to properties located within the “unincorporated county” of Santa Cruz. The ordinance requires  (among other things) that any property owner selling a home that is connected to a public sanitary sewer main, perform a sewer lateral inspection and any necessary repairs at point of sale. 

Does The Sewer Inspection Ordinance Apply To Me?

To see if this ordinance applies to your property, click here to enter your address on the Public Works interactive sanitation map. If your property is affected, read on.

What Is A Sewer Lateral?

First lets start by answering the question, what is a sewer lateral?   A sewer lateral is the sewer pipeline that runs from your house to the connection at the main sewer line in the street. This line is owned by you, the property owner, and any repairs and upkeep are your responsibility.

Santa Cruz County Sewer Lateral Inspection

What Am I Required To Do?

The county ordinance requires homeowners to have a licensed plumber perform a video inspection of the entire sewer lateral line (house to main street connection) prior to selling the home. You may have any California licensed plumber perform the inspection.

The homeowner is also required to repair any defects found in the sewer line prior to close of escrow.  Unlike some of our other county ordinances, this responsibility cannot be transferred to a buyer at this time. 

What Can I Expect During the Process?

After the video inspection has been performed,  your plumber will complete and submit this form to the County Public Works Department. Your plumber will also submit the video inspection and any repair recommendations. The county inspector will review the plumber’s recommendations and the video footage and will make the final decision on what repairs (if any) are necessary.
This review can take up to 10 days.

What If Repairs Are Needed?

If there are defects found in your sewer lateral either during the plumber’s inspection or by the county inspector, you will be required to repair these defects prior to close of escrow.

What Are Defects In The Sewer Lateral?

Defects can be things like tree root intrusion, cracks, separations at joints, non-standard components, standard components improperly installed, deteriorated lines, material routinely prone to failure, sags in the line, separation at the sewer main connection, etc.  Sometimes these defects can be remedied with spot repairs and other times replacing the entire line may be required.

Santa Cruz County Sewer Lateral Inspection

If the entire line needs replacing due to any defects, there are various options available. The entire line can be exposed and replaced or there are less invasive options available like pipe bursting or pipe liner methods.  

If repairs are needed, a permit will need to be obtained from Public Works by your plumber. Your plumber will complete the repairs and schedule a final, in person inspection with Public Works.  All repairs and the final county inspection must be completed before you can close escrow.

The good news is that there are no fees associated with the inspection review or obtaining the permit and the inspector typically only needs a day or two to schedule the final inspection.

Who Can I Hire To Perform Repairs?

If repair work on your property is needed from the house to the public right-of-way (see diagram above),  it can be done by any California licensed plumber.

However,  if your repair work goes beyond this point and into the street, you will need to use one of the county approved plumbing contractors. Click here to see the list of approved contractors from the county website.

Other Ordinance Requirements:

Even if there are no defects found in your line,  there are still a couple of potential repairs that may be required in order for you to be in compliance with the new ordinance:

  • You must have an accessible sewer clean out on the property at least every 50 feet.  A clean out is a pipe with a cap that allows access to clear blockages in the line.  If no clean out is present, you will be required to install one or more.
  • If the lowest floor of your home is not more than 12″ above the nearest manhole, then you will likely be required to install a backflow prevention device at the clean out. This will ensure that water cannot backup into the home in the case of a blockage or intrusion from heavy rains.

How Do I Prove That I Am In Compliance With The Ordinance?

If no defects were found in your line during the inspection and you were not required to complete any repairs to your sewer lateral- you can simply request a copy of the report reviewed by Public Works stating that no work is required to give to the buyer prior to closing escrow.

If you are required to complete repairs to your sewer lateral- once the work is complete and the inspection finalized, Public Works will provide a letter stating that you are clear to close escrow.

Are There Any Exemptions?

Yes. There is a basic exemption is for homes (and sewer laterals) that are less than 20 years old or sewer laterals that were replaced less than 20 years ago with a permit and meeting current requirements. If your property meets either of these criteria, you do not need to perform an inspection. For a full list of exemptions, click here.

What Is The Purpose Of This?

The Purpose Of This Ordinance Is To:

  • Improve private sewer infrastructure
  • Protect the environment and local waterways from the leakage of raw sewage into the groundwater and soil
  • Minimize the infiltration and inflow of water into the sewer system 
  • Minimize the creation of sinkholes in streets and ground
  • Minimize future costs to property owners for sewer lateral  repairs by catching issues early on

What Now?

If you are planning to sell your property, you will want to get this process started as early on as possible to avoid any potential delays in selling your home.

Wow- This All Sounds A Little Overwhelming!

Don’t worry- that’s what Realtors  are here for!!! If you are thinking of selling and not already working with a Realtor®,  please contact meI would love to help you through the process or answer any questions that you may have!

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For more information, including frequently asked questions and a video slideshow and more,  visit the Public Works Website.

Not sure if you are in the unincorporated county?  Click here to search your property address.

*** Since this ordinance has been newly adopted, please be aware that the rules and procedures may change as the county works through implementing their new system. Always double check with a licensed plumber, or the Public Works Department to ensure that you are using the correct forms and procedures.

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