Home sellers in Oakland, Alameda and some other East Bay cities need to decide whether to repair their sewer lateral, if necessary, or let the buyer pay for repairing the sewer lateral. It’s part of a program called East Bay Private Sewer Lateral (PSL)
In Oakland, home sellers or home buyers where there is a sidewalk are also tasked with repairing big cracks and other damage.
These required repairs can be painfully expensive.
Why does the sewer lateral have to be checked and fixed with each home sale?
Many sewer lines from houses to the main sewer line in the street are nearing 100 years old or even more. Back in the day the sewer laterals were made of clay. Clay degrades especially if weeds and roots get down there. The sewer line breaks apart. Use your imagination for the rest.
So a few years ago various Bay Area cities created sewer lateral repair initiatives. San Leandro home sellers and buyers are in luck: As of this posting, San Leandro does not require sewer laterals to be inspected and repaired.
If you never sell your old house, you don’t need to repair your sewer lateral…in which case you may learn the hard way that your sewer lateral needed to be replaced.
Should sellers pass on the task of sidewalk and sewer lateral repairs to buyers?
Both the sewer lateral and sidewalk repair are annoying yet necessary expenses.
Oakland also has an ordinance that requires home sellers or buyers to repair sidewalk flaws that can be tripping hazards. Here’s more on Oakland’s sidewalk repair requirements, which include doing renovations more than $100,000. However if a tree caused the sidewalk damage be sure to talk to Oakland before laying out the big bucks. (Buying in areas with no sidewalks can be a relief!)
Should sellers pay for sewer and sidewalk repairs?
Imagine if you are buying a house. You may be short on downpayment money. Then you hear that you need to spend $10K, for example, on the sewer lateral and sidewalk. Ouch. That’s why I recommend to sellers that if they can afford to make those repairs they should. One less objection buyers might have to writing an offer!
If you are selling your home and have money, definitely have the sewer lateral inspected by a reputable, local licensed plumber that specializes in sewer lateral and sidewalk repairs. Your real estate agent can include their estimate in the property disclosures.
Here you can see an example “Oakland Purchase Addendum” which discusses the requirements of sewer lateral and sidewalk repairs for a home sale. (If you are considering a FSBO sale in Oakland, this is just one of the documents you have to make sure to provide buyers.)
Buyers who are responsible for fixing their sewer laterals need to pay a $4,500 deposit to EBMUD as a closing cost. That’s a chunk of change. Once the plumbing vendor certifies the sewer lateral and pays for any repairs, the home owner gets the deposit back.
Example text from the 2023 Oakland Purchase Agreement Addendum.
Oakland sewer lateral and sidewalk repair companies
An Oakland home buyer might be tempted to save money and hire the cheapest possible sidewalk repair company. While there are surely many reputable licensed general contractors and licensed plumbers out there, take the recommendations from your real estate agent. Do not hire a sidewalk contractor first, since a plumber may be able to take care of the sidewalk along with the sewer lateral.
Get several estimates which are free and which companies can do outside, without the home owner needing to be home.
Good luck and know that your nice new sewer lateral will serve you for decades to come.
Thankfully the certificate that EBMUD issues is good for many years.