Sewer lateral compliance in the San Francisco Bay Area is a common point of confusion for property owners in our community. Recently, our team has heard from several Homeowner’s Associations and HOA members with questions about how private sewer lateral compliance services should be approached in their unique living situation.
Let’s take a closer look at the specific requirements laid out for condominium owners and other owner-occupiers with an HOA, including who is responsible for sewer lateral repairs and how the compliance process will work for you.
What is the EBMUD PSL Program and Who Must Comply With its Requirements?
EBMUD (the East Bay Municipal District) was formed to improve the water quality of the greater Bay area. The organization created the East Bay Regional Private Sewer Lateral (PSL) Program in order to prevent excess rainwater from overwhelming our communities’ sanitary sewer systems and to ensure that untreated wastewater is not released into the Bay. This program requires homeowners to hire a contractor to assess the condition of their private sewer lateral pipes in order to obtain a Compliance Certificate.
The EBMUD wastewater service area includes all properties in Alameda, Albany, Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont, El Cerrito, Kensington, and the Richmond Annex. Note that Berkeley operates its own program with similar but separate requirements.
To catch up on everything you need to know about EBMUD requirements, read our EBMUD PSL Compliance guide.
Who is Responsible For My PSL if I Live in a Condominium or Have an HOA?
If you live in a Common Interest Development (or CID)—including a traditional condo, detached condominium, townhome, planned unit development, stock cooperative, or any other planned real estate development where individual units are sold separately—then your Homeowner’s Association rules will determine who is responsible for private sewer lateral repairs and inspections.
Specifically, you need to consult your property’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). The CC&Rs outline the financial budgeting guideline for an HOA, determining maintenance fees as well as the rules of your neighborhood that are used to protect and enhance a community’s property values. (These rules describe what you are or are not allowed to do with your property, as well as laying out specific requirements such as keeping cars parked in the garage.)
Your CC&Rs will describe who is responsible for maintaining the laterals connecting your home to the public sewer main—the individual owner, or the Homeowner’s Association. There are three possible scenarios:
- The HOA is responsible for the laterals. In this case, the HOA must complete any necessary repairs by July 12, 2021.
- The individual owner is responsible. If the CC&Rs state that the owner-occupier is responsible for sewer line maintenance, then any required repairs under the East Bay PSL Program will only be required if one of the following three “ordinance triggers” are met:
- Shared lines vs. individual lines. The final possibility is that CC&R declares that the HOA is only responsible for shared lines (lines that serve multiple units) while individual unit owners are responsible for individual laterals (pipes that connect only your unit to the private or public sewer main). Assuming you are the homeowner, you would need to pay for the repairs only if your home has its own private sewer lateral AND one of the three “triggers” are hit: property sale, construction/remodeling over $100k, or changing the water meter size.
What If the Organization Governing My Home Doesn’t Call Itself an HOA?
In the eyes of the Regional PSL Program, a Homeowner’s Association is any nonprofit corporation or unincorporated association that manages or governs a Common Interest Development and operates in accordance with governing documents (i.e. the CC&Rs). In other words, if there is a private association that acts like an HOA, then the PSL Program will consider it one even if it’s not formally designated or referred to as an HOA.
Steps for Obtaining Collective Certification as an HOA
It’s important to understand that the HOA does have collective responsibility for the development even if the individual owner gains PSL compliance for their specific property. The entire HOA must ensure that all property owners within its borders are in compliance by 2021. All lines (including branch lines and private mains) within the property's borders must be pressure tested and pass before the HOA's collective compliance is granted.
Here are the basic steps the HOA will need to complete in order to remain compliant.
Note: the entire process of inspecting, repairing and testing multiple lines may take several years depending on the size of the property.
Step 1: Contact EBMUD
Homeowners from HOAs must contact EBMUD with the intention to gain compliance. This must be done in writing.
Because the process can take up to several years, you may want to consider requesting an extension. If you are a homeowner whose HOA is responsible for all laterals, this won’t be applicable to you. If your HOA is not fully responsible, the current fee for initiating the time extension process is $100. There may also be a refundable deposit fee (per parcel) required to hold your application in “pending” status until all lines can be tested. Before scheduling camera inspections, ensure you have a confirmation letter of the granted extension from EBMUD.
Once EBMUD has granted the extension, the HOA should begin scheduling the camera inspections for each sewer line within the property’s borders to get a complete diagnosis of all the lines.
Step 2: Camera Inspection to Check Lateral Condition
Camera diagnosis for this type of compliance is the best scenario and we strongly advise HOA's to have these done professionally so that the condition of the laterals is known without question before any repairs, replacements or testing are done. These steps can be expensive and you would not want to repeat them if you don’t need to.
As an HOA, it’s best if you are prepared to share a parcel map with specs of all of the underground utilities, the physical address details, and a sound knowledge of the property lines with the engineers conducting your camera inspections. For example:
Relaying this information will help your camera inspections move along efficiently and deliver your results to you as prompt as possible.
Learn more about Pipe Spy’s Sewer Camera Inspection Services.
Step 3: Obtain Required Municipal Permits
Building and/or sewer permits must be obtained before repairing any PSLs for cracks and defects. As a Pipe Spy customer, we can take care of this step in the process for you.
Step 4: Complete Required Repairs
After inspecting the sewer lateral, you will need to fix any defects in order to become compliant. In many cases, trenchless sewer repair or replacement technology is a great option. This approach eliminates the need to disturb large areas of the property’s landscape and will save you time and money.
Step 5: Prepare for EBMUD Verification Test Inspection
All PSLs on the property parcel must pass an air or water pressure test in order to gain certification. The HOA or the contractor must provide a map showing all laterals, mains and manholes on the development before scheduling the test. Effective July 12, 2017, the compliance certificate application fee is $250, plus any additional charges incurred for rescheduling, additional tests, or off-hours tests.
To learn more about the verification process, read our PSL Pressure Test 101 guide.
Step 6: Certification
The HOA will receive certification once all laterals have passed verification tests and all fees have been paid. HOA’s who have paid a deposit on an extension can then apply for that deposit’s full refund as long as the certification has been completed within the allotted time frame.
Step 7: Re-Certification
All PSLs managed by the HOA will need to be re-certified every 20 years. Note that some certifications may have prorated re-certification times based on the type of responsibility the HOA has over the PSLs within its borders.
The East Bay Regional PSL Program’s Guidelines for Condominiums and Other Common Interest Developments may be referenced for additional details or clarifications.
What if I Don’t Live in a Condo or Have an HOA?
If you live in a private home without at Homeowner’s Association, then the entire sewer lateral is your responsibility, with the exception of Alameda, Albany, and Berkeley where the responsibility ends at the property line (i.e. upper lateral only).
For more info on sewer laterals and where responsibility switches to the city, check out our Private Sewer Lateral 101 guide, or to discuss your situation directly contact the experts at Pipe Spy for more information.