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

Private Building Sewers

Why do sewer backups occur from private building sewers?

Sewer backups can occur when a private building sewer is clogged with roots, grease, or other materials or broken/collapsed. A building sewer is the 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.


Who owns private building sewers?

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.

*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.


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.

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.

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.

If your building sewer pipe is collapsed or broken, it is usually necessary 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.

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

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).


Investigation of your Sewer Backup Report

If you experience a sewer backup and aren't sure whether it's caused by your private building sewer or the public sewer, please contact MSD within 24 hours of discovery.  An investigation will tell us whether the problem was caused by the public sewer or by your private building sewer or overland flooding. 

Once you report a sewer backup, an MSD customer service crew will come out to conduct a preliminary investigation. As part of this investigation, the crew will check the nearest upstream and downstream manholes in the street to check for flow, look at the elevation of the lowest level of your property as compared to the nearest upstream manhole, and check the float level indicator on your cleanout (if you have one). With your permission, they will also look at the backup inside your home.

The crew will discuss the outcome of the preliminary investigation with you (if you are home). They will leave a Field Form explaining the preliminary findings with you or at your door. Following this evaluation, MSD supervisors will confirm or modify the field report, usually within 24 hours. 

If you are eligible for assistance from MSD, you will be contacted by MSD or an MSD representative.

If you are not eligible for assistance from MSD, you or the property owner will be responsible for any corrective action.

  • Contact the SBU Program

    Report a sewer backup

    Call (513) 352-4900 24/7
    Submit an online report

    Note: Please report your sewer backup within 24 hours of discovery to be potentially eligible for reimbursement of damages.

    Cleaning Services

    Call (513) 244-5100
    Learn more...

    Filing a SBU Claim

    Download the SBU claim form
    Learn more...
    Call (513) 244-5100 for help with your claim

    MSD Prevention Program

    Call (513) 352-4288
    Learn more...

    Videos (Customer Education)

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    Resources & Reports

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    SBU Ombudsman with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati

    Call (513) 362-2801