Illinois real estate groups oppose sewer-report legislation

Just as more and more homeowners in the Chicago area are seeing their property values ​​recover from underwater, some Illinois lawmakers want to send all home sellers down the sewer.

A bill introduced at Illinois House in February would require home sellers to pay for a camera inspection report on the condition of their properties’ main sewers. Real estate groups are fighting the proposal, saying it would add hundreds of dollars – and in some cases thousands of dollars – to the cost of selling a home.

The report, written by a licensed plumber, would assess the likelihood of the sewer pipe becoming clogged with tree roots, baby wipes, and other obstructions, and would be added to the information provided State law already requires from home sellers including the presence of radon, lead paint and termites and disputes over plumb lines.

According to the current disclosure form, sellers are required to verify that the home’s plumbing is in good working order. The difference is that many of the issues contained in a standard disclosure form are visible to buyers, said Wastewater Control Bill sponsor, Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago.

But “without that camera going in and looking at 100 feet of sewer, you’re just revealing what is happening to the toilets,” he said.

“This is to protect homeowners,” said Arroyo, a former employee of the city’s water management department. “I get a lot of calls from people six months after buying a home saying their sewers collapsed and they lost thousands of dollars” for repairs. He declined to say exactly how many calls he had received.


“We get this call twice a week,” said Wally Welker, a project manager for Quality Plumbing Services, which serves the North Side and the suburbs to the north and northwest. Welker said partial breakdowns or clogging are often noticed when a young family buys from an older homeowner and immediately increases water usage on the property. The increased stress on the sewer system can lead to backups or very slow drains, often the first sign of a breakdown.

A house’s sewer pipe can become clogged by tree roots entering through an opening or crack in the clay pipe, baby wipes and other debris caught in a pipe break or opening, or the complete collapse of an old clay pipe. Newer sewer pipes are mostly made of PVC plastic and are more resistant to collapse.

Since Arroyo passed the legislation on Feb.4, real estate industries have urged members to oppose it, arguing that the cost of sewer inspections, which starts at around $ 375-400, according to two plumbers, is an unfair burden would represent on low and middle income homeowners.

“When you’re selling a home for $ 200,000, it’s expensive to spend $ 500 more on it,” said Phil Chiles, the immediate past president of the Illinois Association of Realtors. “People are already trying to get every penny out of it” after the downturn. Chiles predicted that most sellers would add the cost of the inspection to their listing price in hopes of passing the cost on to buyers.

Sellers typically spend about 10 percent of the price on the home to cover commissions, property insurance, and related costs. This is the result of studies carried out by the online real estate database Zillow.

Some sellers might end up paying a lot more than just a channel report. If the inspection reveals signs of an impending sewer collapse or closure, sellers could be billed for over $ 10,000, said Paul Fredericy, manager of Power Plumbing & Sewer Contractor in Chicago.


The invoice does not state who would pay for repairs. In an interview last week, Arroyo said he would expect buyers and sellers to “incorporate this into their price negotiations”.

However, a seller who receives a report stating that the sewer is about to collapse has to decide whether to pay before the sale to have it repaired, or hopes a buyer will come along willing to to pay for it.

Either way, the buyer’s total cost increases, Chiles said.

Rep. John D’Amico, D-Chicago, bill co-founder and practicing plumber, argues that for many homes with old sewer pipes, if the pipe breaks at some point in the future, the buyer’s cost will rise anyway. Legislation “takes gambling out. They know if you are looking at something important with the sewer and are not unexpectedly hit by a bill. “

D’Amico admitted the bill would generate a business for plumbers: more than 146,000 homes were sold in Illinois in 2014. At $ 400 per inhabitant, that would generate more than $ 58 million in revenue. Still, he said, “We’re trying to protect buyers.”

Welker and Fredericy both said they often advise buyers of older homes to do a sewer inspection before signing a sales contract. After a home inspection, Fredericy says, shoppers often call a plumber to assess the cost of any defects found, such as slow draining sinks. Then we tell them to keep looking and look into the sewer.

Welker, however, objected to the legislature’s proposal to make sellers pay for inspection of the channel cams. “That should be the responsibility of the buyer,” he said. “They want to know what they want. The sellers don’t pay for the home inspection. So why should they pay for the camera? “

Last week, Arroyo said he could revise the bill to split the cost of a sewage camera between the buyer and seller.

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