SLIP Frequently Asked Questions
A sewer lateral is the connection from private property to the City’s main sewer line, this connection is usually located in the street or within an easement in your side yard or backyard. Improper maintenance may result in a sewage spill which can cause damage to private property and the environment. In Santa Barbara, the property owner is responsible for maintaining their sewer lateral from the building up to and including the connection or “tap” to the City sewer main. See Santa Barbara Municipal Code Section 14.44.160 for more information on maintenance responsibilities. The Santa Barbara Municipal Code is available at qcode.us/codes/santabarbara/.
SLIP was initiated in 2007 to address the high number of private sewage spills occurring in Santa Barbara by inspecting sewer laterals using video inspections conducted by a Certified Plumbing Inspector. Inspection results are provided to the City by property owners to determine next steps (repair, replacement, or rehabilitation of sewer lateral) to ensure public health and safety.
SLIP staff is available to answer questions regarding SLIP via email or phone at 805-568-1082. Available hours: 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. M-Th and every other Friday.
If you own a property within the City of Santa Barbara and receive a letter regarding your sewer lateral, it’s for one of the following reasons:
- The City's Sewer Condition Assessment Program identified a defect on your sewer lateral through routine CCTV (closed-circuit television) inspection of the City's Main Sewer Lines. The defects could be; roots intruding into the Main Sewer Line, a defective connection between your Sewer Lateral and the Main Sewer Line, or a structural issue inside the Sewer Lateral itself.
- A Private Lateral Sewer Discharge (PLSD) or a Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) originated from your property, resulting in an emergency response from City staff to contain and control the sewer spill. The root cause of the spill will need to be identified and eliminated.
- The property owner initiated the building process of an extension, an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), or any construction project that would add either 400 sq. ft. of construction area or 2 plumbing fixtures. The request of a building permit will trigger a SLIP Case on the property, to ensure that the sewer lateral(s) is/are in good condition.
- Your property is identified as Commercial, Industrial, or Common Interest Development (3 or more dwelling units). Per Municipal Code, these types of properties must have their private sewer lateral inspected every ten years to assure their compliance.
Many laterals in Santa Barbara are over 50 years old. In many cases, one defect can be a sign of larger issues. The age and material can cause a sewer lateral to be vulnerable to root intrusion which may cause blockages and backups within your sewer lateral.
The contractor or plumber you hire should provide you a copy of your sewer lateral inspection. Videos are also stored on Forward Lateral (web based software for submitting Sewer Lateral Inspections) for 1 year. The plumber conducting your inspection can add you to the Forward Lateral inspection using your email
Your property may have more than one private sewer lateral, City staff may have observed roots, a structural defect, or a defective connection on that sewer lateral.
When determining which laterals require inspection, City staff use all available resources, including inspection videos, County parcel ownership information, and the City’s Geographic Information Systems information to identify the owner of the sewer lateral. Sometimes properties in the City’s GIS appear to have multiple laterals. Your plumber is the best resource to determine how many active sewer laterals your property has or if the City GIS is incorrect. Once the sewer lateral inspection is completed and submitted to us, this information helps us update our records for the future.
A notice may be sent to the property’s physical address when notices to a mailing address have not been successful. We encourage you to contact the property owners as soon as possible to notify them that a sewer lateral inspection is necessary for their property. Also, if the mailing address is not updated through the County Assessor’s office, we may send letters to the site address. If you receive a letter or an administrative fine, please forward it to the landlord/homeowner for resolution.
Receiving a request to inspect your lateral is dependent on the condition of your lateral connection joint. Everyone’s lateral connection joint is in different condition and may have its own respective issue(s) .If you received a letter indicating that a recent CCTV inspection identified an issue with your sewer lateral, the condition of your neighbor’s lateral was most likely inspected as well. If their lateral showed a defect or issue, they will receive a letter.
For single-family homes, defects at lateral connection joints are identified on a per-instance basis after the City completes its own cleaning and sewer main inspection.
For commercial, industrial and residential common interest (4 or more dwelling units) properties, we have anticipated inspection dates planned through 2024. For the most part, the parcels are grouped by the street address. You can visit STORY MAP to view the planned inspections by year.
We highly suggest discussing the process(es) and partnering with them to hire one company to complete the video inspection and/or repairs on your common lateral. We also recommend evaluating the possibility of separating your connection from your neighbors, unless you have a written agreement covering long term maintenance of the lateral.
The cost for a video inspection of your sewer lateral will vary based on factors such as the length of your lateral and ease of access to the pipe. If you have a cleanout already installed, this helps the plumber and reduces the amount of work needed to insert the camera.
Repairs to a sewer lateral can be costly, especially if your lateral has not been routinely maintained in the past. Less-invasive technologies are available to reduce the cost of repairs over the traditional trenching method.
It's recommended that you get multiple quotes.
Scope of repairs are noted in the “Notice to Repair” letter received, generally there are few options.
If only a few defects are noted, you may elect to just dig and repair.
If several defects are observed in the video, you may want to consider replacement or rehabilitation of the entire sewer lateral. Rehabilitation will be on a case by case basis and determined by SLIP staff.
If your connection to the City sewer main needs replacing, this work can be performed by your plumber or by a City contractor. For more information, contact SLIP staff.
The City requires plumbers to attend an annual certification class to ensure they meet the City’s required standards. The City’s Qualified Inspection List can be found on the City’s website. Except for replacing your sewer lateral connection to the City main, any licensed plumber may make the general repairs outlined in letter you received.
There is no fee to have your Sewer Lateral Inspection Reviewed by City Staff. SLIP cases initiated by a construction permit have a video Inspection review fee. Permit fees for Sewer Lateral Repairs are put in place by the permit counter. Contact the Permit Counter to confirm the current permit fees
As your private sewer lateral ages, the old mortar joints in the pipe tend to degrade which allows tree roots to get into the sewer lateral and the potential for sewage to leave your lateral. It is likely your lateral has reached the end of its useful life and is in need of replacement or rehabilitation. The property owner is responsible for maintaining their private sewer lateral.
The City's Video Assistance Program was established to assist Property Owners with the first step of their SLIP case. The program is offered on a first come first served bases. Learn more at www.SantaBarbaraCA.gov/VAP
If you are having difficulty funding the repairs, please submit an extension request to Mariana Cruz, SLIP Program Administrator as soon as you have received your quotes to request an extension. Please include the reason why the work cannot be done in the specified timeframe and the needed extension duration. We will consider all extension requests based on the condition of the sewer lateral and the justification for the request.
In cases where there is a delay to unavailability of qualified plumbers, contact us as soon as you are aware that you will be unable to make the repairs in the specified timeframe. SLIP staff will respond once your request is reviewed. This will prevent us from sending a follow-up letter or starting the fine process.
When it is clear the property owner is working on a solution to repairing the defective lateral, the City will issue an extension. If a property owner does not demonstrate any effort towards inspecting or making necessary repairs, an administrative fine may be added to the next month’s sewer service charges on the water bill.