Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, invisible gas produced when any fuel such as natural gas, kerosene, wood, oil or even common barbecue charcoal is burned. At high levels without proper ventilation carbon monoxide can kill humans in a very short period of time, even after just a few minutes. Moreover, there is credible research that acute exposure or poisoning by carbon monoxide can cause chronic health effects such as lethargy, severe headaches, amnesia, psychosis, concentration problems, memory impairment, personality alterations, and even Parkinson’s disease. The American Medical Association states that carbon monoxide is the primary cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States year after year. The federal Centers for Disease Control estimates that carbon monoxide poisoning kills approximately 500 people annually and causes another approximately 20,000 injuries per year. Needless to say carbon monoxide is a very important topic and issue for property managers to understand and embrace in order to act as professionally as possible and to protect their client’s best interests.
Today there are laws requiring listed and labeled carbon monoxide detectors within all residences, rental units, investment properties, multi-family residences, and apartment buildings. It is tantamount for property managers and property management companies to be fully educated about carbon monoxide, carbon monoxide detectors, carbon monoxide poisoning, exposure and prevention. There are also some ‘best practices’ guidelines for property managers to be mindful of and incorporate into their property inspection checklists.
Various State Laws Require Carbon Monoxide Detectors in Dwellings
In California as of July 2011 the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010, (hereinafter “The Act”) requires carbon monoxide detectors to be installed within every dwelling unit intended for human occupancy. The Act also requires carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in ‘all other existing dwelling units’ on or before January 1, 2013. Thus, as of 2014 “ALL” dwelling units need to be equipped with properly listed and labeled carbon monoxide detectors.
How are CO Detectors Energized
The standards for manufacture of carbon monoxide detectors are well documented in state laws. Standard 720 of the National Fire Protection Association is the basis for manufactured detectors. Most home improvement and hardware stores carry several code complying varieties of detectors. CO detectors can be battery powered, can be plug-in (outlet) with battery backup, or can be hardwired with battery backup. CO detectors that are manufactured with a combination smoke detector must emit an alarm or voice warning with each signal different than the other.
Where in a Dwelling Unit are CO Detectors Required?
CO detectors are required to be installed in a manner consistent with building code standards for new construction. For minimum effectiveness and security CO detectors should be located outside of each sleeping room or in the vicinity of bedrooms. CO detectors must also be installed in every level of a dwelling unit including basements within which fuel-burning appliances exist and dwelling units that have attached garages. The CO detectors should be at least six (6”) inches from exterior walls; three (3’) feet from HVAC supply or return ducting vents, and not obstructed by other equipment, furniture, or occupant belongings.
Landlords and Property Managers are required to Supply Carbon Monoxide Detectors in All Dwelling Units
The standards and requirements for CO detectors apply equally to landlords and property managers. After proper notice has been granted to a tenant property managers have the authority to enter dwelling to install, repair, test and maintain carbon monoxide detectors. CO detectors are required to be operable at the time the tenant takes possession of the unit. Tenants are required to notify the property manager if the CO detector becomes defective or inoperable. A property manager will not be held responsible or in violation of the law if a tenant has failed to notify the property manager of the deficient device.
Common Sources of Carbon Monoxide in Dwelling Units
Any fuel burning appliance located in a residence or dwelling unit is a potential carbon monoxide producer. Gas burning heating systems, gas burning cooking appliances like cooktops, ovens, griddles, and water heaters are all possible sources of carbon monoxide. Typically, the gas burning appliance somehow becomes mal-adjusted and begins to burn the fuel incompletely, leaving CO molecule production. This is sometimes caused by the equipment failing, but can also be caused by alterations in the dwelling unit interior atmospheric pressures.
Another common source of carbon monoxide in a dwelling unit is from attached garages and vehicular exhaust. It is always a best practice to start a vehicle in an attached garage and move it to the driveway exterior while allowing it to warm up. Never allow vehicles to be running within a closed garage as the exhaust will most certainly find its way into the dwelling potentially causing problems.
Property Managers Must Take Carbon Monoxide Education Seriously
Because carbon monoxide (CO) is a silent killer it is imperative that property managers be diligent about CO detector education and maintenance. Carbon monoxide is such an extremely important area of concern for property managers for the reasons stated above. In addition to protecting your client’s best interests diligence in maintaining properly functioning CO detectors can save lives.
Property managers and property management companies must be adequately educated about carbon monoxide, carbon monoxide detectors, carbon monoxide poisoning, exposure and prevention.