New California Requirements for Carbon Monoxide Detectors

As of July 1, 2011, California landlords and homeowners, including sellers of residential property, must comply with the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 (Ca. Health and Safety Code §§ 13260 and following; and §§ 17926 and following). This law addresses the problem of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas produced whenever any fuel is burned. It can enter the home from sources as seemingly innocent as a gas stove, furnace, or woodstove, usually due to leakage, backdrafting, or poor venting.

The new California law requires the installation of a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm (or a CO alarm combined with a smoke detector) that emits an alarm and has been tested and certified in accordance with standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL).

Detectors must be installed in all dwelling units that contain a fossil fuel burning heater, appliance, or fireplace; or that have an attached garage. (A fossil fuel is coal, kerosene, oil, wood, fuel gases, and other petroleum or hydrocarbon products that emit carbon monoxide as a byproduct of combustion). Heres the installation schedule:

  • July 1, 2011: all single-family homes
  • January 1, 2013: all other dwelling units (such as multi-family residences)

Landlords’ and Tenants’ Responsibilities

Landlords are charged with installing and maintaining the detectors, and may enter the rental for the purposes of installing, repairing, and testing. Tenants are responsible for notifying the landlord if the device becomes inoperable.

Sellers’ Responsibilities

Currently, the law requires sellers of residential real estate containing one to four living units to complete disclosure forms as part of the sales process. Sellers of single-family homes must give buyers written notice of compliance with laws concerning smoke detectors. Sellers of any real property containing a water heater must certify to any buyer that the heater complies with safety requirements.

The new law amends these duties, by changing the disclosure forms so that the seller will certify that the property complies with the requirements for smoke detectors and water heaters. The new seller disclosure forms also now include a section for carbon monoxide devices, and say that installation is not a precondition, or requirement, for sale or transfer. However, sellers should not be surprised if buyers insist that such detectors be installed as a condition of closing.

If youre a home buyer, your inspector should tell you whether the house does, in fact, contain adequate CO detectors. If not, you can either ask for them as part of your negotiations, or simply plan to buy them yourself. The cost is usually between $20 and $90 per detector. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends installing a CO alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home.


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