The East Bay’s Private Sewer Lateral (PSL), Sidewalk, Energy and other point of sale Requirements


Sewer Lateral and Other Point-of-Sale Requirements

Beginning in January 2012, the City of Oakland implemented a then-new ordinance requiring some homeowners to repair or replace their sewer lateral. A sewer lateral is a pipe the connects a home’s plumbing to the city’s sewer main. These pipes are privately owned and, in Oakland, it is the property owner’s responsibility to fix these pipes if they corrode, clog or overflow. A similar ordinance exists in Emeryville, Piedmont, El Cerrito, Kensington and Richmond.

Since then, Oakland and the East Bay have enacted several additional point-of-sale requirements, which we will cover in this article.

Basic Requirements of Oakland PSL Ordinance

Here are the basic PSL requirements:

  1. Before selling, building or installing a new water meter, a property owner will need a compliance certificate from the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) certifying that their lateral is in good condition: no cracks, holes or leaking connections.
  2. If the sewer lateral was replaced completely, this certificate is good for twenty (20) years.
  3. If the lateral was only repaired or passed the city’s inspection with no repairs needed, the certificate is valid for seven (7) years.
  4. If a seller does not replace/repair the sewer later prior to sale, the buyer must agree to have the work completed within six (6) months and must make a $4,500 refundable deposit with EBMUD before the close of escrow.

Cost to Replace Sewer Lateral in Oakland

The cost to repair or replace a sewer lateral has increased over the years and more companies have, unfortunately become less dependable on completing work as scheduled.

Pricing for a sewer lateral repair or replacement can range from approximately $4,500 to over $7,000 depending on the level of work required. If your plumbing company needs to dig deep to reach the city’s main line (and remove concrete in the process), you can expect costs to be on the higher side of this range.  If your pipe is not too deteriorated, your company may be able to simply repair it.

There are numerous plumbers in and around the East Bay who can complete the repair or replacement. Both Yelp and Google remain the best source for up-do-date plumber recommendations.

Reasoning Behind the Ordinance

As homeowners, requirements such as this can seem cumbersome. So why did Oakland add this hurdle to the home sale and purchase process? It turns out, it’s for pretty good reason.

The private sewer lateral ordinance is an effort by the RWQCB and the Environmental Protection Agency to keep the San Francisco Bay and other area waterways clean. Sewage from deteriorated laterals could be slowly going into our creeks and groundwater. Too much sewage overflow can overwhelm the public sewer system, which is designed to hold only so much wastewater. This in turn can cause partially treated sewage to be released directly into the San Francisco Bay. Sewage release can contain contaminants not generally found in urban runoff, including fecal matter, which may carry disease-causing organisms. Oakland’s sewer lateral replacement program was designed to lessen the risk of overflows at the three primary EBMUD sewage treatment plants.

Does Your Home Need a New Sewer Lateral?

Many homes in Oakland and around the East Bay were built before 1950 and have never had their sewer laterals replaced. Aging laterals are most likely clay or iron, which tend to leak at the joints when jostled by shifting soils like those found in the Oakland hills. New lateral pipes are installed as one long sleeve and made from high-density polyethylene, which is more flexible, sturdy and resistant to corrosion. The polyethylene pipes are expected to last about 50 years or more.

If your lateral was replaced in the last ten years, property owners can apply for an exemption to this requirement.

Earthquake Gas Shut-Off Valve Ordinance

Automatic gas shutoff devices sense shaking in a residential building and automatically shut off the gas, lowering the risk of fire in the event of an earthquake

There are three types of gas shutoff devices: manual shutoff valves, earthquake automatic shutoff valves and excess flow automatic gas shutoff valves. The “California Valve” is a horizontal earthquake actuated gas shut valve. It senses shaking in a residential building above a designated level and automatically shuts off the gas. It is activated only in cases where shaking may be sufficient to cause damage to the gas pipe system. 

Alameda and Contra Costa counties have shut off valve ordinances. Contra Costa’s gas shut off valve ordinance applies to:

  1. All new buildings constructed after April 21, 2000.
  2. Commercial building performing additions, alterations or repairs with a building permit issued after April 24, 2000 and a valuation of greater than $15,000.
  3. Residential building performing additions, alterations or repairs with a building permit issued after April 24, 2000 and a valuation of greater than $15,000.
  4. All buildings sold in the unincoroporated areas of the County after January 2, 2007. Gas shut-off valves must be installed downstream of the meter and at the point of appliance prior to entering into an agreement for sale, or prior to close of escrow when an escrow agreement has been executed in connection with the sale.
  5. Alterations or additions to the fuel gas piping system when it involves the replacement of the gas meter. 

Oakland Sidewalk Ordinance

In July 2019, the City of Oakland began requiring sidewalk repairs of known, unsafe conditions between the prior to the Close of Escrow on the sale of real property which abuts city sidewalks.

“Sidewalk” as defined in the Ordinance includes, but is not limited to, sidewalks, walkways, driveways, curbs, and gutters and other areas.

These repairs are also required whenever applying for any city approval for construction, remodeling, modification or alteration with estimated costs exceeding $100,000.

More information on the ordinance and its requirements can be found at the City of Oakland’s website.

Berkeley Energy Audit: Building Emissions Saving Ordinance (BESO)

Berkeley’s Building Emissions Saving Ordinance (BESO) requires property owners to hire a qualified assessor to conduct an energy assessment and prepare a report about the building’s energy performance and opportunities for improvement.

The assessments are conducted by registered energy assessors who provide tailored recommendations on how to save energy, eliminate fossil fuels, and link building owners to incentive programs for energy efficiency and electrification upgrades.

Energy efficiency improvements and electrification recommendations are not required but are encouraged. BESO is required prior to sale of a house or whole building under 25,000 square feet, and on a 5-year reoccurring cycle for large multifamily and commercial buildings.

BESO Requirements vary depending on the building type and size:

Of course, there are fees associated with the assessment and details can be found at the City of Berkeley’s website.

Contact Your Agent to Learn More

Whether you’re buying or selling a home in the Bay Area, your Realtor is the best resource to provide the most updated information on ordinances that may affect your sale or purchase.

Our YayPad have years of experience guiding our Bay Area clients through sometimes complicated transactions (and we rebate 50% of our commission!). Get in touch to discuss your purchase or sale.

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