Do you live within the city limits of your town and use city water and sewer services? If so, then you are paying for those services in your monthly water or electric bill, depending on how your city does its utilities billing. This raises the question of who is responsible when there is a problem with the sewer at your residence. If the sewer is not working optimally, is in need of repairs but still working, or is outright broken, then sewer repair is a must. The city may claim you are responsible for paying for sewer repairs. But are you, really? Most cities have similar laws regarding sewer repair. If your city is balking at paying for repairs to the sewer at your house, here is what you need to know about who is legally responsible for paying for this work.

Where Is the Problem With the Sewer Located?

According to Angie's List, in most cities, you are responsible for paying for sewer repair work on the portions of the sewer that are on your private property. The sewer line on your property connects with the main sewer line that serves the whole city. Any damages or problems with the sewer are your responsibility up to the point where they connect with the public line.

At that point, the repairs become the responsibility of the city. This code is written into the vast majority of municipal codes across the country.

You may be able to make a case for the city repairing the sewer on your private property if you can prove the problem was caused by an issue with the public city sewer main. It is possible you may have to hire a lawyer to get the city to pay in these instances, unless the city's fault is very clear and evident.

Does the Damaged Part of Your Sewer Go Under a City Street or Sidewalk?

In some cities, a reimbursement or partial reimbursement program may be available for repairs on sewer lines that originate on private property, but extend under a city street or sidewalk. The affected sewer lines must not connect with the public sewer main, because the city would have to pay for it in this case.

Because the sewer lines go under public property without connecting with the public sewer main, a city may agree to pay part of the repair costs. It all depends on your city, but many municipalities do have these programs. Other cities have financing programs where they will loan you the money to repair your sewer if the damage is on your private property

Ask at city hall to see what reimbursement is available, and the requirements for getting it. The amount the city will pay varies from city to city, but paying for half of the repairs in these cases is not uncommon.

3. Did You Cause the Damage to a Public Sewer Line?

Many cities will charge you if you are responsible for damaging a public sewer line. It doesn't matter if the damage occurred on your own property while getting the private part of the sewer line repaired by a professional, or if you did it by accident in some other location off of your property. Cities are in the business of charging people who damage city property, and yours is probably the same.

Expect a bill for a hefty sum if you damage the city's part of the sewer main. You can try to get your plumber to pay the bill if they were responsible for the damage, but you may have to put out the money for the repair first, while waiting to work things out with our plumber on the issue.


Many homeowners are not aware that they are responsible for repairs to sewer lines on their private property. Especially with first-time homeowners, they often just assume that the city built the sewer and they pay for sewer services, so the city must be responsible for paying for everything. This is not the case.

While there are exceptions, you will have to hire a plumber or plumbing contractor to repair any sewer damage or problems on your private property, while the city will take care of issues on public property. Be aware of this, and avoid nasty surprises if you have an issue with the sewer on your property.

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