Sewer Lateral Ordinances

The public sewer main in Santa Cruz sees continual improvement, with new sections replaced and cleaned every year. This allows residents to place their confidence in the safety and performance of the region’s sewer system.

To keep things flowing smoothly, some of the responsibility lands on property owners in Santa Cruz. Consider the private sewer service lateral, also known as the private lateral. This is the pipe that extends from a building’s plumbing system to the public sewer main. As you can see by the diagram below, even the section that extends beyond the property line is the building owner’s responsibility.

Source: Sewer Lateral Inspection Requirements in the City of Santa Cruz

Learn more about the sewer lateral ordinances in Santa Cruz County and the City of Santa Cruz to determine if they apply to your property. Then, schedule a sewer inspection with Bellows Plumbing, Heating & Air to keep your property in compliance.

Sewer Lateral Ordinances in Santa Cruz County

Buildings between Live Oak and Aptos, as well as in Davenport and parts of Freedom, are subject to the ordinances established by the Santa Cruz County Sanitation District. The current law states that building owners in this district must have a licensed plumber complete a sewer lateral inspection before selling their property. This ordinance only applies if the following three statements are true:

  • The structure connects to a sanitary sewer main.
  • The structure is more than 20 years old.
  • The private lateral has not been inspected in the past 20 years.

If the plumber determines that a repair is necessary, the seller must arrange to have this done before closing the sale. Once the repair is made, the county will conduct its own inspection to confirm that the sewer lateral is in proper working order.

Not sure if your home is under the jurisdiction of the Santa Cruz County Sanitation District? Check the following maps to see if your home falls within the boundary lines:

Still unsure? Contact the Santa Cruz County Public Works Department at 831-454-2160.

Sewer Lateral Ordinances in the City of Santa Cruz

The City of Santa Cruz operates its own waste management program. If your property falls within city limits, here are the three new regulations you must follow:

  • As with Santa Cruz County, property owners must have a private lateral inspection and repair before selling a building. Properties with newer laterals or that have passed an inspection in the previous five years are exempt.
  • Apartment buildings, businesses, and homeowner’s associations with private sanitary sewer collection systems and pumps must past inspection every 10 years. Also, cleaning is required every two to five years, depending on size. Lastly, privately owned pump stations must pass inspection every one to five years, depending on size.
  • If a sewer spill occurs on private property, the owner is responsible for stopping the spill immediately and making prompt repairs. Failure to comply could result in fines and penalties. NOTE: If you own a condo or townhome with an HOA, contact your management company to determine who is responsible for repairing the sewer system.

An important note about the sewer lateral ordinances in the City of Santa Cruz: To pass inspection, you must have any pre-existing street-traps removed and a clean-out installed at the sidewalk (if one isn’t already present).

If your private lateral fails its point-of-sale inspection, you must bring the sewer line up to city standards. You also have the option of filling out a Transfer of Responsibility to Repair form with the buyer, which gives the buyer 90 days following the date of sale to have the repairs completed. Be aware that most buyers will negotiate a reduced sale price as compensation for transferring the responsibility to them.

NOTE: As of this writing, the Cities of Watsonville and Scotts Valley don’t require a point-of-sale inspection for residents. Property owners are only responsible for repairing the private lateral if it fails. Keep in mind that local laws change, and these cities may one day adopt the sewer lateral inspection ordinances currently in place in Santa Cruz County and the City of Santa Cruz.

Schedule a Sewer Lateral Inspection

Bellows Plumbing, Heating & Air offers sewer lateral inspections in Santa Cruz to keep your home or business compliant with city and county ordinances. We encourage customers to fill out a Sewer Lateral Incentive Program Rebate Application to request financial assistance when repairing your sewer lateral. Rebates will continue to be issued to property owners for as long as funds are available.

To schedule a sewer inspection, please contact our Santa Cruz plumbers at 831-244-6718.