A Montreal man is surprised and outraged to learn he will have to cough up thousands of dollars to repair a broken sewer pipe that's not even on his property. 

Eric Cook and his family have been surviving for the past three months by living off paper plates, taking showers at their neighbours' homes and using a portable toilet set up in their garage.

'I have no experience in public works.'- Eric Cook, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce homeowner

Their troubles began about three months ago, when they noticed their water was backing up. 

Cook, who lives in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, told CBC's Daybreak that a visit from a plumber revealed a break in the pipe, about six feet away from the sidewalk, underneath the road.

But when Cook contacted the City of Montreal, he was surprised to learn that he would be the one paying for the repairs. 

"It's definitely not on my property," Cook told Daybreak host Mike Finnerty. 

City says pipe is homeowner's responsibility

The break is in a section of pipe that runs from Cook's home to the city main drain. According to Montreal bylaw, that means it's the homeowner's responsibility.

Stephane Plate, the general manager for the Notre-Dame-de-GrâceCôte-des-Neiges borough, said the bylaw is clear, even though some people may not be aware of it.

"It's not something we want to hide. We mention it, we say it, but obviously people don't pay attention until they are stuck with the problem."

Plante said the borough is putting together a pamphlet to help raise awareness and prevent any more surprises. 

Repair bill could cost up to $35,000

In the meantime, Cook is knee-deep in negotiations with contractors, not the way he was planning on spending his summer.

"I have no experience in public works. It's very very difficult to get an excavator that you can trust," Cook said.

Cook was hoping to retire in the next few weeks, but now he's worried about how he's going to afford the repairs, which could cost as much as $35,000.

There's a good chance he'll have to fork over a few hundred dollars for a permit to close down the street as well.

"It's not something that I was expecting," Cook said.