Tillamook City Council approved during a council meeting Monday, May 3, a 90-day freeze on enforcement of sewer lateral inspections for realtors to provide education to their clients. The ordinance, passed in December 2020, requires a sewer lateral inspection prior to the close of escrow upon a sale or transfer of a house or property, the installation of additional plumbing facilities that produce an increase in sewage flow from the house, when a sanitary sewer overflow occurs, etc.
Once city staff reviews the testing results of the inspection, the city will issue the property owner a Certificate of Compliance. This certificate states the building sewer lateral serving the property is properly working, structurally sound and meets the service conditions of the city.
Realtor Adam Schwend addressed the ordinance during the citizen’s hearing portion of the meeting.
“One of the things we all know is we have a housing affordability issue,” Schwend said. “Those folks who have just moved to the area or renting, they have nowhere to go with those starter homes. People aren’t moving.”
When you have a point of sale mandate, if that sewer line fails, Schwend said the property owner has to dig up the street, as many of the laterals are in the middle of the street, in the middle of an escrow.
“Our city is of the age to where a good deal of our sewer system is approaching 100 years old,” Councilor Doug Henson said.
Councilor Rebekah Hopkins said realtors should have been spoken to before the ordinance was passed, or shortly after. She said she thinks the best time to find the issues is during negotiations.
“If an inspection is done and it finds a serious problem, I think it's a good thing for the buyer to be aware of that,” Hopkins said. “A standard home inspection does not include an inspection of the laterals.”
Hopkins said the person who can least afford to fix the laterals is likely the buyer, who took out a home loan, and it does not seem to be too big of a burden on the seller to do an inspection.
“It may be that the seller can’t afford to do the work but the buyer is willing to take it on and a month on down the road, fix the problem,” Schwend said. “What I would ask there is give us the opportunity to negotiate that properly.”
Councilor Brian Reynolds agreed the best time to fix a sewer lateral issue is during the point of sale. He added this has been successful in other cities. These cities were reached out to before the resolution was passed. City Manager Nathan George said the inspections are very common in Oregon and throughout the United States.
“We’re looking at protecting consumers, we’re looking at protecting our sewer system and upgrading long term,” Reynolds said.
The council said other cities were reached out to before the ordinance was passed. City Manager Nathan George said the public process for the ordinance went through as advertised.
“I think there’s still an opportunity to address the larger issue around our sewer infrastructure because this is not going to fix it on its own,” Schwend said.
There was consensus from the council for George to have conversations with realtors. The council approved a 90-day freeze of sewer laterals inspections to provide an education period for realtors.