Sewer Laterals & Private Warranty Programs

The Department of Public Works reminds homeowners that the maintenance and repair of the sewer line that connects their home to the public sewer system is the responsibility of the property owner. This private line, referred to as the sewer lateral, can become clogged, cracked, and ultimately fail if not properly maintained, and repairs can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Homeowners are encouraged to have a licensed plumbing contractor regularly inspect the sewer lateral for signs of deterioration.

Common Failures


When unexpected failures occur, they can be very disruptive and costly to repair. The most common failures that occur include:
  • Collapse of sewer pipe or broken sewer tile
  • Connection failures at the main sewer line (typically located in the parkway or under the street)
  • Open joints that allow water infiltration into surrounding soil
  • Roots infiltrating cracks in the sewer lateral, leading to blockage
  • Sewer lateral improperly pitched to allow water to drain
In the event of a blocked or deteriorating sewer lateral, homeowners may experience water backing up into toilets or through floor drains.


Causes


A common cause of sewer lateral blockage is tree roots that have grown through cracks in the sewer line and can prevent water from flowing through. Roots from trees and large shrubs seek moisture wherever it is available, and can find their way into your sewer line. A plumbing contractor can remove the roots from the line, which is a maintenance task that may need to be repeated every year or two as the roots grow back into the line. Please note that tree roots cannot penetrate a sewer pipe that is in good condition, so root infiltration is a sign that the lateral is partially deteriorating.

In the Event of a Back-Up


In the event of a sewer back-up, homeowners may contact the Department of Public Works to have the main sewer line inspected in the street, and repaired if a blockage is found in the Village's sewer. If no blockage is found in the Village's sewer, a licensed plumbing contractor should be contacted by the homeowner to inspect the private sewer lateral and determine the cause of the blockage.

The Skokie Public Works Department can provide a list of contractors who have done work in Skokie, though the department cannot recommend any specific company. In some circumstances, property owners who live adjacent to major roadways with unusually deep main sewers may be eligible for limited financial assistance from the Village to offset a portion of their repair costs.

Homeowners who have questions about the proper maintenance of their sewer lateral can call the Water and Sewer Division.

Private Water & Sewer Warranty Programs


Homeowners insurance policies typically do not cover repairs to private water and sewer lines since the cost is generally considered a routine part of home maintenance, similar to roof or driveway maintenance. While all insurance policies are different, you would have to check with your homeowner's insurance provider to learn if any coverage is available for private sewer laterals.

Several companies have been marketing warranty programs locally that offer to pay the cost of repairing or replacing failed sewer laterals. Given the potentially high cost of repair and seemingly low cost of the warranty programs, the coverage can appear to be a desirable investment. However, homeowners considering these programs are advised to carefully consider the terms and conditions of such warranty agreements, particularly the defined exclusions to covered repairs.

Questions to consider:
  • Will the warranty cover repairs if the defect is in the public right-of-way or under the street?
  • Will the warranty cover costs of restoring sidewalks, landscaping, or street section if excavation is needed to complete the repair?
  • Will the warranty cover repairs for a partially blocked, but functioning, sewer lateral? Or is a complete failure of the line required for coverage under the warranty?
  • Will the warranty cover rodding out a partially blocked sewer lateral?
  • What, if any, pre-existing conditions would prevent the company from paying for lateral repairs?
  • Who selects the contractor that would perform the warranty work, and are they qualified?
While such warranties are legitimate financial products, the pricing and contractual terms are established by the companies. Acceptance of these terms and payment plans is a matter of consumer choice and individual estimation of value to the homeowner.