Sewer Lateral Ordinances in Santa Cruz County – Point of Sale Inspection Requirement

Sewer Lateral Inspection Requirements in the City of Santa Cruz: Source
Sewer Lateral Inspection Requirements in the (Unincorporated) County of Santa Cruz: Source

The private sewer service lateral (also known as a private lateral) is a pipe that takes an individual building’s wastewater to the public sewer main. These private laterals are owned by the building owner and are essential for directing wastewater away from nearby structures such as other homes. 

Did you know that unincorporated-Santa Cruz County, Capitola City, and Santa Cruz City all have point-of-sale requirements to inspect sewer laterals when selling a piece of real estate that is attached to a public sewer system? Read more about these requirements below and if they apply to your property. 

Santa Cruz County Sewer Lateral Ordinance

The Santa Cruz County Sanitation District is responsible for managing the sewer system from Live Oak down to Aptos, as well as in Davenport and parts of Freedom. As of now, there is a law in place in this district that requires property owners to have a licensed plumber complete sewer lateral inspections and repairs before the sale of a home. The law applies to properties which:

  1. include structures connected to a sanitary sewer main,
  2. have been constructed more than twenty years before the date of sale and
  3. have as not been inspected in the past twenty years. 

If repairs are required, they will be the responsibly of the seller and must be completed before the close of escrow. The seller is free to negotiate the cost of this repair with a buyer, but even in this scenario, the repairs must be completed before the sale is closed. Once the repair is done, there will be a county inspection to confirm that the sewer lateral is in working condition. 

You can read more about private sewer lateral requirements here and you can read more about the costs associated with sewer lateral inspection and repair at the end of this article. 

Not sure if your home falls within the Santa Cruz County Sanitation District? Here are some tips to determine if you fall within the boundary lines:

  1. Check one of these three maps for Santa Cruz County (pink shaded area with yellow outline), Davenport (blue shaded area), or Freedom (pink shaded area with yellow outline) to see if your home falls within the boundary lines. 
  2. If you are still unsure if your property falls within the Sanitation District, try using this GIS map to locate your property. Click on the layer-icon in the top-right corner. Choose the “Sanitation District” layer. Using the information-box that has populated for your property, scroll down and look for “Santa Cruz Sanitation District” in the “SANITDIST” field. If, instead, you nee “n/a”, this means your home is not within the district. 

Have more questions? Contact the Santa Cruz County Public Works department at  (831) 454‐2160.

Santa Cruz City Sewer Lateral Ordinance

Santa Cruz City has its own waste management program and regulations and so if your property falls within the city limits, the following information applies to you. 

The City has recently updated their Sanitary Sewer System Ordinance. The changes to the ordinance are three-fold:

  • The owner of a property with a sewer spill is responsible for stopping the spill immediately and will be subject to fines and penalties if inspections and repairs are not made in a timely manner. Note that if you live in a condo or townhome with an HOA, you will have to check with your management company to determine where the responsibility to repair sewer systems lies.
  • Prior to the sale of a property, the property owner must have the sewer lateral inspected by an authorized inspector, make any needed repairs, and submit an inspection form to verify compliance.The property is exempted from inspection for newer laterals or laterals that have passed inspection within the past five years.
  • Private sanitary sewer collection systems and pumps (at apartment buildings, homeowner associations and businesses) must pass inspection every 10 years. Their pipelines must be cleaned every two to five years depending on size. Privately-owned pump stations must pass inspection every one to five years depending on size.

An important note about the City of Santa Cruz inspection requirement: to pass the inspection, you will have to remove any pre-existing “street-traps” found during the inspection and have a clean-out installed at the sidewalk if one does not already exist. We spoke to a few local plumbers, and they said that depending on how it was installed, removing street-traps can cost thousands of dollars. Installing clean-outs at the sidewalk typically ranges from $600 – $1800, though prices may vary. To avoid any nasty surprises during a deal, we suggest that, if you live in the City and plan to sell in the near future, you have your sewer lateral inspected to determine the scope of work required. 

Should your sewer lateral inspection fail, you have a few options:

  1. Repair the sewer line and bring it up to City standards yourself.
  2. Fill out a Complete a Transfer of Responsibility to Repair form with the buyer, which will transfer the responsibility to repair to the other party. The buyer will have 90 days after the date of the sale to have the repairs completed and submit a new inspection form. Keep in mind that, if the cost of repair is significant, most buyers will try to negotiate a reduction in the purchase price as compensation. 

These changes were approved by the Santa Cruz City Council on June 26, 2018.  The new spill procedures and private sewer system and pump requirements are already in effect. The lateral inspection upon sale of property requirements will begin on July 1, 2019. You can read more about these new regulations here

Other Incorporated Areas in Santa Cruz County

The Cities of Watsonville and Scotts Valley currently do not have a point-of-sale inspection requirement for residents. In case of failure and repair, the property owner is responsible for her or his private sewer lateral. These cities may follow Santa Cruz City’s example and propose an ordinance with a point-of-sale requirement in the future.

Note: Local laws change, and while we update our articles regularly, please call your local public works department to get the most current information on Sewer Lateral inspection requirements.


Sewer Lateral inspections typically cost around $200 – $300 if your home has an outside clean-out. You can learn more about your home’s clean out and how to locate it here. If your home does not have a clean out, the cost can increase to $400 – $500 or more depending on your home’s plumbing. Note: some plumbers in Santa Cruz County are offering free inspections. To learn more, give us a call: (831) 600-6550.


What about repair? The cost to repair can vary widely, depending on the issue and a variety of other factors. This is why we recommend you get a sewer lateral inspection done before selling your home.

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