Buyers, Builders, Re-Modelers Beware

Getting ready to purchase your new home? Ready to remodel or add on to your existing home? Are you building that dream home on the lot with the million-dollar view? If you live in the City of Los Angeles and answered, “yes” to any of these questions then this may be a big surprise for you, according to John A. LaRocca, a local real estate property inspector.

The Los Angeles City Department of Public Works Bureau of Engineering has adopted policy requiring the homeowner to pay for and provide a video inspection of the main sewer line lateral when an application for a building permit is made on any structure built prior to 1965. The logic that the homeowner must foot the bill is based on long established City policy, based on the opinion of the L.A. City Attorney, which assigns responsibility for the construction, maintenance, and repair of house connection sewer lines to the property owner.

The lateral is the portion of the property’s main sewer line that connects the property to the city sewer pipe. The city inspector will review the video documentation to determine the condition of the sewer lateral and can require the sewer line to be rehabilitated or replaced at the property owner’s expense.

Imagine you’ve just completed your remodel or new construction project. The city building inspector tells you that before the certificate of occupancy will be issued a video inspection of the main sewer line lateral will be required. Then imagine the city officials telling you that the line is in need of repair or rehabilitation at a cost of many thousands of dollars. Then you’re told that this cost will be your responsibility because the City of Los Angeles places the responsibility of the sewer pipe from the structure to the city sewer connection under the street, public right of way or easement on the private property owners. Main sewer line laterals can be quite costly to rehabilitate or replace. The cost can vary depending on the depth of the sewer line though in many cases a minimum of $6,000 to $8,000 to rehabilitate the line can be expected. If the line is in such poor condition that it needs to be replaced, a typical associated cost could be $12,000 or higher.

The best protection afforded to the homeowner is to be aware of the potential costs of repairs by having a sewer line video examination performed prior to buying a home or starting a project on any home constructed prior to 1965.

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