Sewer Scopes and Party Sewers

Last week, I posted about the City of Portland going after party sewers. I was going to link back to a post I had written previously but it wasn’t there so we’ll recreate today. A few years back, sewer scopes on the east side of town were part of the recommended inspections that we had buyers do during the inspection period. At that time, we were mainly looking for breaks and found plenty. Now we recommend sewer scopes to everyone, even new construction. There have been numerous reports of new ABS sewer pipe being laid and then crushed by heavy equipment!

We’ve now been involved in three transactions that have had party sewers. One property owns the main tap to the line and the other properties must connect directly to the line to disconnect. In the first two instances, the combined bill for the disconnection was over $10,000.

Prior to the Tribune’s report last week, the progression of party sewers in Portland was “we don’t care,” “if it needs repair, it must be disconnected,” and now “not allowed.”

5 Comments on “Sewer Scopes and Party Sewers

  1. Charles-

    This situation is but one example of a risk factor involved in owning real estate. I appreciate there are many benefits too, but for whatever reason people tend to ignore problems like this. The attitude seems to be “everything will just take care of itself.”

    While some things, such as teeth and friends, do disappear when ignored, a failed party line sewer system cannot be ignored–and when you don’t own the main tap what can you do but pay up!

  2. Between this, thermal imaging, and Lord knows what else, it really pays to have an experienced realtor working with you as a buyer. Someone to know what to ask the inspector for. Another argument against dual agency as well.

    I’ve also heard heard a big problem with new homes is not packing the dirt under the sewer line before filling in on top. Then when you pack the top, you get a low spot in the lines. Can the sewer scope find a low spot?

  3. To comment on the new construction issues. It’s true. I’ve performed many sewer line inspections on brand new properties only to find conditions which require immediate repair. I’ve seen drain lines that were never connected or connected improperly, lines that are already broken or sometimes that my camera went under water. So can a camera find a low spot? Sure, and it’s more common than one might think. As a camera opperator when the image goes under water only to emerge a few feet later we know that there’s a belly or low spot in the drain line.

    As far as predicting which properties may or may not have conditions requiring repair is impossible. I’ve seen very old clay pipe with no concerns to brand new pipe needing repair. It’s a crap shoot and the only way to ensure that your sewer drain line is problem free is to hire a competent sewer inspection company.

    Typically an inspection will cost you in the neighborhood of $120. Some camera operators will inspect the line for $99 and charge extra to have a copy of the video while others may charge $125 for the whole bananna. If your home inspector refers you to a sewer line inspector who charges more, rest assured that both companies have your best interest at heart. With gas prices expect these prices to go up as a Prius won’t carry our equipment. Remember that a video sewer inspection is a very small fraction of any repair that may be needed.

  4. If there are any pumbers looking at this I am sure you have had to deal with downtown for repairs of your inspection camera. Have you taken a look at the new Easy Cam? It is has been engineered from the ground up with plumbers in mind. All the parts are user replaceable with a couple of allen wrenches and a screwdriver. It’s truly an amazing camera. Check it out and let me know what you think. http://www.easycamllc.com

  5. As a general contractor in the sewer scope and repair business, I have done and replaced many sewer lines in and around the Portland Oregon area.
    I would “NEVER” buy a home or business without first doing a sewer scope.
    This should and is fast becoming the first step in a home inspection, the cost of a repair could cost big bucks.
    On the other hand, a simple sewer scope should not cost as much, most scopes take less than 30 minutes and at 100 a scope, thats 200 bucks an hour….Look around, but make sure you hire a contractor that has the right equipment for the job.
    Get a scope done before you buy…

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