Building Sewer Owner Responsibilities

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

Sewer backups in your home could be caused by problems in the building sewer.

What is a building sewer?

The building sewer is a private sewer pipe that connects your home to the public sewer system. It’s also called a house tap, lateral line, or building sewer lateral.

Who is responsible for fixing building sewer problems?

If you own a building, then you also own the building sewer pipe that connects your building’s plumbing to the public sewer.*  A part of your responsibility for home maintenance includes keeping your building sewer pipe open, clear and in good repair. 

Problems that sometimes happen with building sewers include:

  • Clogs or blockages.
  • Broken or collapsed pipe.

These problems can happen anywhere along the length of the building sewer pipe, from within the building itself, under the house, or at any spot along the way to the point where the building sewer pipe connects to the main, public sewer pipe. 

Part of your building sewer lies within the boundaries of your property.  Part of it lies within the public right-of-way.  “Public right-of-way” is land used for public purposes, such as public streets, sidewalks and utilities.  Public right-of-way land is owned by the public, through its government. A public sewer usually lies within the public right-of-way. 

Who is responsible for fixing problems that occur in your building sewer pipe?  The answer depends upon where the problem is.  If your building sewer becomes clogged up by an internal blockage, you are responsible for clearing out the pipe, whether your pipe is blocked somewhere within your property boundaries or somewhere within the public right-of-way.  MSD cannot perform cleaning out of the inside of your building sewer pipe.

If your building sewer breaks or collapses at a point of the pipe that lies within the boundaries of your property, you are responsible for repairing the pipe.  MSD cannot fix a broken building sewer pipe on your property. 

If your building sewer pipe breaks or collapses at a point of the pipe that lies within the public right-of-way, MSD will make the necessary repairs.  MSD takes responsibility for building sewer pipe repairs within the public right-of-way outside of private property. 

If you have a sewer backup, we want you to call us first at 513-352-4900.  A check of the public sewer will tell us whether the problem is there, in the public sewer, or within your 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.


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.


What can I do to avoid building sewer problems?

Maintaining your building sewer is just as important as changing the oil in your car and replacing the filter on your furnace.

To make sure your building sewer operates properly, use these tips:

  1. Inspect Your Building Sewer Annually

    Make building sewer care part of your household maintenance routine every year. Have your line inspected and cleaned by a professional plumber.

    Be sure the plumber you select has equipment that is the proper size to clean the full interior of your building sewer. In your region, building sewers are typically 4 to 6 inches wide.

  2. Prevent Grease Buildup

    Don’t pour grease and fat down your drains. As it cools, grease can build up in your building sewer and create a clog.

    Instead, pour these substances into a solid container. When the container is full, place it in the garbage.

  3. Landscape with Care

    When you plant trees or shrubs on your property, consider the location of your building sewer. Don’t plant above or near the building sewer.

    Roots that are seeking water can enter the building sewer and cause clogs, or possibly break the sewer pipe. If roots enter the pipe, you will need a professional plumber to cut away the roots and clear the pipe .

    Be sure to do this each year, because roots can grow back quickly.

  4. Flush Responsibly

    Don’t try to flush non-dissolving materials in your toilet, such as baby wipes, feminine products, or kitty litter. These materials can get caught in your building sewer and restrict or block the flow of wastewater through your system. Dispose of these items in the trash. 

    Some brands of wipes say they are safe to flush, but MSD does not recommend it.

  5. Clean Your Gutters
    In many parts of Cincinnati and surrounding communities, the downspouts from gutters are tied directly into the building sewer. Leaves and twigs that fall onto a roof can be washed into the downspouts, and eventually move into the building sewer.

    A buildup of this debris in the building sewer can create clogs that can cause wastewater to back up into your home. To help keep leaves and twigs out of your building sewer, be sure to keep your gutters clean.


Call MSD first for help

Even if you are careful with your property, sometimes sewer backups can still occur.

If you are having a problem with a sewer backup, call us at (513) 352-4900, or submit an online service request. We may be able to help you figure out the source of your problem.

We respond to every customer who reports an SBU to us, normally within four hours. However, if you wish to contact a professional plumber, you need not wait until MSD arrives at your property before you do so. Heavy or prolonged rainfall can sometimes delay our response time.


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