Private Building Sewers

Sewer Backup? Call us FIRST at: (513) 352-4900

What is a private building sewer?

A building sewer is an underground sewer pipe that connects the plumbing in your home to the public sewer system. It’s also called a house tap, lateral line, or building sewer lateral.

If you own a building, then you also own the building sewer.*

Building sewers extend from the building to the point of connection with the public sewer. The property owner owns the entire pipe, even the parts of the pipe that lie under the publicly owned sidewalk and street.


Who is responsible for fixing building sewer problems?

The answer depends on where the problem is.

Problems that can occur with building sewers include:

  • Clogs or blockages.
  • Broken or collapsed pipe.

Property Owner Responsibilities

As a property owner, you are responsible for keeping the entire length of your building sewer clear of clogs and blockages. If your building sewer becomes clogged or blocked (e.g., tree roots, diapers, grease), you are responsible for clearing out the pipe. MSD cannot perform cleaning of the inside of your building sewer pipe.

You are also responsible for repairing any broken or collapsed portion of the building sewer that is located on your property. MSD cannot fix a broken building sewer pipe on your property.

MSD Responsibilities

MSD is responsible for fixing broken or collapsed private building sewers if the broken section is located within the public right-of-way (e.g., beneath the sidewalk or street).

If you experience a sewer backup and aren't sure whether it's caused by your private building sewer or the public sewer, please call us at 513-352-4900.  A check of the public sewer will tell us whether the problem was caused by the public sewer or your private building sewer pipe. 

*This information applies to owners of buildings connected to the public sewer.  If your building has a septic tank or on-site sewage disposal system, please contact a plumber or your local board of health for information on requirements for your system.

For more information, please see the graphic below or visit our Resources page.

Building_Sewer_Responsibility_graphic_small.jpg (988.19 kb)


What is the process for clearing a clogged building sewer on my property?

Clearing a blocked lateral line often requires rodding. This process is performed by a professional plumber and involves threading a flexible metal rod or cable with a cutting tool attached to the end of it into your sewer line.

Rodding generally can cut through blockages. Depending on what’s on the end of the rod when it’s removed, the plumber may be able to tell what’s causing the blockage.


What is the process for repairing a broken building sewer on my property?

If your building sewer pipe is collapsed or broken, it is usually necessary for you to dig down to the pipe and install new pipe to replace at least a portion of the old pipe.  

Sometimes it is possible to reinforce a deteriorating building sewer by applying a liner to the inside of the pipe.  Your plumber can recommend the best way to repair or rehabilitate your building sewer.


Helpful Tips for Hiring a Plumber

Here are some suggestions for finding and hiring a plumbing professional.

  • Contact the SBU Program

    Report a sewer backup

    Phone: (513) 352-4900
    Online: Report a sewer backup online

    If you have a sewer backup (SBU), please report it immediately. You can report sewer backups 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
    Note: SBUs must be reported within 24 hours to be eligible for reimbursement of damages.

    Get information about sewer backup prevention

    (513) 352-4288

    Filing a claim

    Start here: How to File a Claim
    Get help filing a claim: (513) 244-5100
    Just need the form? SBU Claim Form (pdf)

    SBU Ombudsman with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati

    (513) 362-2801

SBU Site Search:

MSD Home    Customer Service    City of Cincinnati    Hamilton County    Project Groundwork

Understanding Sewer Backups

How to Prevent a Sewer Backup