One of the most substantial problems we have to deal with in the world of plumbing and drain cleaning is sewer backup. Sewer backup is gross, it can cause substantial property damage, and it requires a concerted effort to clean up. Depending on the cause of the backup, you might even need to repair or replace your sewer line. The whole thing can be a pretty pricey proposition.
But what if it’s not your fault?
When you look at municipal services, it’s important to consider that there are really two parts to any given system: the parts that are your responsibility and the parts that are the City. When your home experiences a sewer backup because of a blockage that’s in the City’s mainline, it’s hard to understand why you would be held responsible. On the flipside, the City certainly isn’t incentivized to pay the costs. Here’s what you need to know:
For most municipal services, everything within your property line is considered to be your responsibility. With sewer services, it’s a bit different: the whole sewer pipe running from your home to the City’s sewer is your responsibility, even the parts that extend beyond your property line. When a blockage is on your property line, it’s clearly your responsibility. When it’s past your property line, you’ll contact 311.
When you contact 311, they may ask you to do a second cleaning; during this time, they may get you to ask the folks providing your sewer cleaning services to do a video inspection of the sewer line. The City may also ask you to allow them to inspect your home, and they may get you to give them a full history of any sewer cleanings you’ve had done before. This is important, because your sewer cleaning company may have given you advice on how to avoid future blockages; if you didn’t follow that advice, the City is more likely to assume it’s your responsibility.
Having followed the City’s instructions, you may find that the sewer blocks up again, or remains blocked. In these circumstances, the City will pay for subsequent sewer cleanings/repairs, until the blockage is cleared.
The City might insist that the damage is yours to repair, even when you’re pretty sure it’s not. In these circumstances, there’s a couple of things you can do. Those who have property insurance that covers sewer backup are encouraged to talk to their insurer; they have a number of resources they can use to investigate the cause of the backup, and potentially use that information to get the City to cover it. Those without insurance should strive to get as much information as possible anyway. Once the fact-finding is done, you can file a claim against the City of Winnipeg; lots of supporting documentation is necessary, so speak to your sewer cleaning company about providing it to you. Your insurer will likely handle most of these steps if you’re insured.