Oakland Sewer Repair Scams are Becoming Widespread

Scams Related to the Oakland Private Sewer Lateral Ordinance

The Oakland Private Sewer Lateral Ordinance has really changed the landscape for sewer repair and replacement in Oakland. The new ordinance requires that all homes being sold in Oakland pass an air or water test. This test is designed to accurately determine the condition of the sewer lateral. If the sewer lateral has breaks it may be letting storm water into the sewer system. The problem with extra water in the sewage system is that when the EBMUD treatment plant reaches capacity they must open the flood gates and release untreated sewage into the San Francisco Bay. Homeowners cannot close escrow without having the sewer test done. An Oakland PSL Certificate of Compliance must be obtained.

Oakland PSL Certificate Sewer Scams in Oakland

The new Private Sewer Lateral Ordinance in Oakland has created an environment where contractors can take advantage of unknowing homeowners. Ultimately it is the responsibility of both the homeowner and the contractor to obey the law. Here are examples of different types of sewer scams in Oakland:

Example #1 – PSL Certificate Obtained by Faking Test

There is a scam occurring where a homeowner is approached by a contractor when they need to obtain a PSL Certificate. The contractor does a video camera inspection of the sewer line. The contractor determines that the pipe is damaged and should be replaced. Instead of recommending the appropriate repair as required by the Oakland Private Sewer Lateral Ordinance the contractor explains to the homeowner that there is a short cut. The short cut consists of performing the sewer test an area of the lateral that is good by blocking off the broken parts of the pipe. Once the broken part of the pipe is sealed the sewer test can be conducted and the sewer lateral will pass the test. Then the PSL Certificate can be obtained. In some cases the homeowner understands what is happening and willingly participates in the fraud, but in most cases the homeowner is just given a bid lower than the cost of the repairs required by the ordinance and the sewer compliance certificate is granted. This can lead to significant problems in the future for the person who is being sold the home because the sewer line is still broken.

Example #2 – PSL Certificate Obtained by Unpermitted Sewer Repairs

In some cases a contractor will identify breaks in the sewer line and suggest to the homeowner that the proper repairs can be made without a permit. Or they just don’t mention that a permit is usually required. A sewage and excavation permit is always when required for sewer repair in Oakland. The unknowing homeowner is told that the repairs can be done and PSL Certificate can be obtained for a very low price. If the homeowner agrees the work is done and the PSL Certificate is issued. Any homeowner or contractor who participates in this type of scheme is subject to a large penalty by the City of Oakland and EBMUD.

We recommend the following tips to homeowners to avoid being the victim of a sewer scam:

• Beware of Companies not Based in Oakland
• Always Make Sure The Contractor is Pulling Permits
• Make Sure the Contractor has Workers Compensation Insurance
• Get 3 Bids. If the Price Seems Too Good To be True, It is


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