City Forcing Me to Run New Service Line

14 Replies

I am flipping a single family that I purchased about 2 months ago with hard money. When I went to cut out what looked like old water lines (capped and bent over) under the sink I was surprised to find that the cold line was live, (this house was winterized and the water had been shut off just before the meter.) The water dep. eventually came to help, but when they realized that my service line served my house and the house behind me, they decided to just crimp the line. 

The water dep. determined that it was an illegal line on my property that I was responsible to remove, but they seem to be okay with me just capping it and burying it in the concrete slab. 

The main problem is that now the water dep. is saying that I need to install a new service line from the street so that I have my own shut-off, which is required according to code. This would require around a 25' long trench 4-5' deep and everything required to install a new line, which I don't know too much about. 

What should I do? This is going to cost at least $2,500 from what I understand but could be around 5K. I guess my real question is can I fight this? The water dep. pulled my meter and sent me a letter saying that I can't obtain a CO until I come up to code with the water line.

How did they know that your line was illegal and not the house behind you?  It doesn't make sense that your neighbours water line goes through your property and not from their property to the street in front of their house.

Call around and get quotes for a new line.

Thanks Theresa,

I got a base quote for 3500, but I suspect it will be more. I have someone coming out to locate the lines more in depth so that I can determine what needs to be done. However, my main question is can I fight the city on this and if so what would be the best way to do it. Everyone I've talked to from the city has been pleasant and I've been trying to stay on their good side. My fear is that I might stir up a hornet's nest and have an even harder time getting my CO. This pic should give some context.

@Nathan Mailly I bought a building lot a few months ago. It used to have an old house on it but it was torn down about 20 years ago. Submitted my new plans and city stated there was no sewer tap. I knew this couldn't be true - city plans show sewer stubbed to property and this isn't a rural location - no way they had an outhouse into the 1990s. What they finally figured out (they think) is that many years ago the owner illegally hooked the old house to sewer but never paid a tap fee or monthly bills. Guess who gets to pay now? $6000 :(

@Nathan Mailly talk to an attorney about fighting it or pay to get it done. Personally I’d pay to get it done.

Hopefully you’re not funding this all with hard money that’s gonna get expensive quickly

@Teri S. Wow that's a bummer, and not very encouraging haha, but it is what it is! Thanks for your thoughts @Caleb Heimsoth . A little over half of the deal was financed with hard money. It's going to be tight, but hopefully it all works out. I'm waiting to hear back from my attorney.

Is this a city-owned water company?  If yes, speak to a master plumber (or three) in your location to get their opinion as to any wiggle room.  When they all tell you 'no', go ahead and bite the bullet.

If it is NOT city-owned water company, go ahead and bite the bullet.  Trying to fight a utility is unproductive, at best.  Kinda like trying to fight city hall.

I am confused ...  In the initial post you state the water had been shutoff before the meter but then you go on to indicate that you need a new line so that you have a shutoff.

I question if the house for some reason had two ties to the main line.  The one that was shut off and the one that feeds the neighbor house that still was on.   It is even possible that internal to the house there is two plumbing circuits.

Questions/items:

  • Was there any valves turned off prior to the water department capping the illegal line?  if there was valves with not water, you already have a shutoff meter.  The problem then become disconnect from the neighbors line and attach the two water circuits together.  If the water lines are not in the slab this is not a hard task for a good plumber.  It is harder if the lines are in the slab.
  • Even if there was no valve turned off it is still possible you already have a shutoff.  Turn on the shutoff that you think feeds you unit (the one initially shut off) and see if there is water anywhere in your house.  If so you need to find a place to disconnect from the neighbor house.  When no water to your house from neighbors then turn on your shut off.  Does every valve have water?  If so voilla, done.  If not you need to connect the two water circuits (the dead one that was fed from the neighbor house with the live one).  Voilla done. 

Good luck

@Theresa Harris Yes, they must have known. I'm not sure, still waiting to hear back from my attorney.

@Marc Winter  yes, I think it is city owned. Do you mean as opposed to privately owned? Okay, I will definitely reach out to some master plumbers. Thanks!

@Dan Heuschele Thanks for your thoughts Dan. The shutoff I am referring to is the shutoff at the street, which each house is required to have. Currently, My house and the house behind me are run off of the same shutoff at the street, even though we both have shutoffs where the main enters each of our houses. The shutoff at the street is buried under the pavement and has never been shut off.

When I originally cut into the line the shutoff in my house was already closed. As water began to spray out of the cut I began to close every valve in sight, but water continued to spray out. We eventually crimped the line and I plan to cap it and bury it in the slab, which the water dep. seems to be okay with.

However,  because of this whole ordeal the water dep. wants me to tap a new line off the main so that I have my own shutoff at the street. This is no small task and I really do not want to do it if I don't have to. 

Thanks!

Originally posted by @Nathan Mailly :

@Theresa Harris Yes, they must have known. I'm not sure, still waiting to hear back from my attorney.

@Marc Winter  yes, I think it is city owned. Do you mean as opposed to privately owned? Okay, I will definitely reach out to some master plumbers. Thanks!

@Dan Heuschele Thanks for your thoughts Dan. The shutoff I am referring to is the shutoff at the street, which each house is required to have. Currently, My house and the house behind me are run off of the same shutoff at the street, even though we both have shutoffs where the main enters each of our houses. The shutoff at the street is buried under the pavement and has never been shut off.

When I originally cut into the line the shutoff in my house was already closed. As water began to spray out of the cut I began to close every valve in sight, but water continued to spray out. We eventually crimped the line and I plan to cap it and bury it in the slab, which the water dep. seems to be okay with.

However,  because of this whole ordeal the water dep. wants me to tap a new line off the main so that I have my own shutoff at the street. This is no small task and I really do not want to do it if I don't have to. 

Thanks!

This makes sense but your initial post stated the water had been shutoff just before the meter.  The house shutoff (versus the main shutoff) should always be after the water utility meter (referring to before and after from the supply side).  This confused me.

Unfortunately, I suspect you will need to have your own shutoff and water utility meter near the main line.  Typically the water companies consider the meter and anything before it their responsibility and everything after the meter the property owner's responsibility.  The closer the meter is to the main, the less the water company is responsible for and in addition it makes tapping in before the meter typically obvious.  Therefore, water companies typically want the meter by the main line.

In addition to the work involved to run the new supply line to the house, most water companies have a charge for connecting to the water supply.  This can vary from reasonable to outrageous (the sewer connection fee for one of my properties is $40K - needless to say it will be remaining on septic).

Hopefully you forecast costs conservatively and have decent margin for these type of unexpected costs.

Good luck

@Dan Heuschele , in PA the water service is pretty much a monopoly run by Pennsylvania American Water Co.  They state their responsibility for repairs is from the street main connection only.  

The water line supplying the house between the water meter and the street is the owner's responsibility.  If a water main breaks underground between the house and the street, the owner pays.  I'm sure it may be very different in sunny CA.

Hi Nathan,

If line #4 has pressure even after the street valve is shut off, it could be an artesian well.

Perhaps there was an old house there before the new one was built and this is a leftover well.

If it shuts off when the street valve shuts off then it has to be tied to the common line.

Since the city knows both homes have the same line, why is yours the one that needs to pay full price to split the new connection?

On the face of it, it seems like both homes share the responsibility 50/50 because both have an illegal connection unless that's how its done in your area.

Good Luck with this!

I would take a look at what materials are being quoted. Is PEX allowed as a service line where you are located? You could buy the materials, dig the trench, and just pay a plumber to do the connections for you.....

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