Sewage Backup in Condominium


plumbing expert witnessThis case involves a couple who owned a condominium. The couple used the condo as a vacation home. They experienced several sewage backups in their unit where they found toilet leaks, sewage residue in their kitchen sink and in the sink and tub in the master bedroom. The couple had 6 sewage backups within a 5-year period, which allegedly caused them extreme distress and extensive costs as they attempted to waterproof as some of the valuable stored items in the condo. They informed the condominium management about the backups and the management company claimed it was not their responsibility to hire a plumber or investigate the issue. The couple hired a plumber to snake the PEX pipe drain line in the condo. Two of the couple’s neighbors also had sewage backups in their units. The plumber recommended annual maintenance of the drain lines serving the building.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. What could cause repeated sewage backups in a condominium?

Expert Witness Response

In many cases like this one, the condo involved is located on the first floor of a multi-story building with an underground parking garage. Each ground floor unit usually shares vertical drain pipes with the units stacked above. The vertical drain pipes will run through the shared common area walls and connect to lateral drain pipes running below the units and along the ceiling of the underground garage. To prevent sewage backups, the condo association management is usually responsible for arranging for maintenance of the main plumbing line. This normally involves hiring a plumber to “hydro-jet” the main line by blasting the lines with a high-pressure stream of water. In most cases, a blockage of one of the main sewer lines serving the condo unit where a sewage backup has taken place and the units stacked above it may cause repeated sewage backups. This type of blockage can occur in a lateral drain line running through the parking garage beneath the stacked units. Since this type of sewage backup occurred in a common area, the condo association is usually required to pay for the plumbing repair costs. In cases like this one, it is usually debris that has accumulated over many years that causes a blockage in the main lines and the condo association is responsible for hiring a plumber to clean the pipes properly to repair the blockage.

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