General Landlording & Rental Properties

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Steve S.
  • Dallas, TX
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Faint sewer smell, broken pipe - $20,000 repair

Steve S.
  • Dallas, TX
Posted Nov 24 2022, 08:28

Tenant complained of faint sewer smell.

Plumber snaked camera into pipe from toilet and identified broken pip with water popped where it shouldn’t be.

Estimate is $20,000 to excavate, replace and potential foundation preparation.

What would insurance potentially cover? House built in 1977. Not in position for $20,000 repair.

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Greg Scott
  • Rental Property Investor
  • SE Michigan
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Greg Scott
  • Rental Property Investor
  • SE Michigan
Replied Nov 24 2022, 09:08

That estimate seems pretty expensive.  I'd get more quotes because it is unlikely insurance would cover that sort of issue.

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Leo Ray#3 General Real Estate Investing Contributor
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Leo Ray#3 General Real Estate Investing Contributor
  • Investor
Replied Nov 24 2022, 09:35

@Steve S. sorry about your plumbing issues--I've been there plenty of times, and I feel your pain.

Only the insurance company can tell you what they'll cover (obviously, nobody on the forums knows the details of your insurance policy). However, if I remember correctly, most basic homeowners policies don't cover sewer mains, but again--I have no idea what type of policy you have (and some people have separate policies specifically for their sewer main).

As for price; 20k could be high, but it might be right on target--I've definitely seen sewer mains cost 20k before (and sometimes more).

It depends on factors such as: how easy is the sewer main to access? Are there mature trees growing above the sewer main? are they only replacing the broken part of the sewer main, or are they replacing the entire thing all the way to the city sewer? does the sewer main run underneath paved driveways/walkways/retaining walls/landscaping features, or anything else that makes access more difficult? how much of the sewer main is underneath the house or other structures? what type of market are you in, and what's the market's supply vs. demand of sewer replacement services? How long is the sewer main? what type of foundation is it, and what type of foundation repair will be required, etc., etc.

...If you tell us some of those items, some folks on here might be able to give you a better picture of the cost....

Regardless, it is worth getting a few quotes from a few different companies--which will give you a more accurate understanding of cost.

Good luck out there!

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Bjorn Ahlblad
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Bjorn Ahlblad
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  • Shelton, WA
Replied Nov 24 2022, 09:51

Those kinds of repairs get very costly but it is allowable CAPEX and why we build reserves. All the best!

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Henry Lazerow
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Chicago, IL
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Henry Lazerow
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Chicago, IL
Replied Nov 24 2022, 09:54

Depends on area in Chicago that job is 15-25k so seems OK.

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John Warren
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John Warren
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Replied Nov 24 2022, 15:55

@Steve S. where exactly is the sewer broken? Is it in a slab? Under a concrete basement floor? In the yard? 

These are instances where you should get multiple quotes and multiple opinions and take your time.... your faint sewer smell triggered you calling a plumber you probably haven't used. A lot of plumbers like to force you into very costly repairs when there are much cheaper ways to solve issues. 

  • Real Estate Agent IL (#475.166619)

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Henry T.
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Replied Nov 24 2022, 16:58
Quote from @John Warren:

@Steve S. where exactly is the sewer broken? Is it in a slab? Under a concrete basement floor? In the yard? 

These are instances where you should get multiple quotes and multiple opinions and take your time.... your faint sewer smell triggered you calling a plumber you probably haven't used. A lot of plumbers like to force you into very costly repairs when there are much cheaper ways to solve issues. 


 Or is it in the street?  Street or yard makes a big difference in cost. Then take the time to get lots of bids. If its in the yard, do it yourself for nothing. A home depot excavator is only $300. It's fun.

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Jeremy H.
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Lafayette, LA
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Jeremy H.
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Lafayette, LA
Replied Nov 24 2022, 17:04

Is it the main drain? Can it be routed elsewhere?

I have a older property that had this problem, all the dwv pipes now route out of the house then meet the sewer main the backyard. It's a downtown property so pvc/conduit outside of houses is pretty common to see for electrical/plumbing 

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Russ B.
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  • Cleveland, OH
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Russ B.
  • Investor
  • Cleveland, OH
Replied Nov 24 2022, 19:36
Almost exactly a year ago, I connected a house to the public sewer (had septic up until then, was starting to fail). That was about a 300 foot line that had to be drilled under the road, to connect to the sewer in the middle of a neighbor's front yard across the street.

That job, with restoration on the neighbor's yard and a $2600 permit, totaled about 13k.

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Eliott Elias#2 All Forums Contributor
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Eliott Elias#2 All Forums Contributor
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Replied Nov 24 2022, 19:44

Get some more quotes 

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Replied Nov 24 2022, 21:22

This happened to me many times.  This price is very high.  You need to get more quotes.

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Nathan Gesner
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Nathan Gesner
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  • Cody, WY
ModeratorReplied Nov 25 2022, 04:54
Quote from @Steve S.:

I've had several complete replacements done and they typically run $6,000 - $8,000. I would get another quote.


  • Property Manager Wyoming (#12599)

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Marina Loos
  • Papillion, NE
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Marina Loos
  • Papillion, NE
Replied Nov 25 2022, 06:36

I had to replace a sewer line back in 2018 and they had to excavate all the way down to the center of a residential street and close off a lane for a few days. Cost was $8000.00. I'm in the midwest. 

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Bruce Woodruff#3 All Forums Contributor
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Bruce Woodruff#3 All Forums Contributor
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Replied Nov 25 2022, 07:33

That does sound high, check around.....

Even though I am usually against doing the pipe lining process, this may be a place for it....

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Steve Vaughan#2 Creative Real Estate Financing Contributor
  • Rental Property Investor
  • East Wenatchee, WA
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Steve Vaughan#2 Creative Real Estate Financing Contributor
  • Rental Property Investor
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Replied Nov 25 2022, 09:25

I've had this before and corrected the faint smell with a new wax ring. 

This is crazy talk. 

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Efrain Yakuta
  • Contractor
  • Long Beach, CA
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Efrain Yakuta
  • Contractor
  • Long Beach, CA
Replied Nov 25 2022, 10:55

@Steve S. Look in your area for a plumber that has the equipment to do a liner or epoxy. Depending on the type of pipe in the ground it can often be less invasive meaning it may not require excavation. It all depends on your goals for the property. If you would like to PM me I can send some info on it. Good luck!

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Tom O.
  • Chicago
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Tom O.
  • Chicago
Replied Nov 25 2022, 12:54

@Efrain Yakuta

Came here to say exactly that. It's possible some lines with brakes can be sleeved.

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Judy Parker
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Judy Parker
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  • Closter, NJ
Replied Nov 26 2022, 19:17

And look at it this way: once you get that entire line replaced (no "bandaids"), you won't have that problem again for a very, very long time. Had to do a few of them at my properties. Just get some estimates, then "bite the bullet" and have the work done (before the ground freezes).

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Aaron Porter
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Aaron Porter
  • Insurance Agent
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Replied Nov 28 2022, 09:14

Utility services are almost never covered under a standard home owners or landlord policy.  There are special "add-ons" that you can add to your policy that would offer some coverage for this.  Also most insurance policies don't cover sewer backup in to the home. 

If the home is a rental and your tenant has to move out for or you don't get rent for a couple of months you may be able to get some coverage under "loss of rents"  if your policy has that coverage. 

As far as cost... I would definitely get a few quotes.  Google is awesome, or ask around at your local hardware store for good contractors.  Sewer is something you may be able to do yourself and save some money but you always run the risk of messing it up and causing more problems.  

I have had to replace a few different utilities in properties I have owned.  The most expensive one was a new water main in a house in Southern UT. But that is because we had to trench the new line in almost 1/4 mile.