The impact of carbon monoxide can be deadly. Without question, living in a home with a carbon monoxide alarm is critical to protect the health and safety of every one of us. As a result, many renters are beginning to ask, do landlords have to provide carbon monoxide alarms in their apartments or rental homes? Read on as this article addresses that question, whether and where there are carbon monoxide detectors required in California, and other concerns about carbon monoxide poisoning and prevention.
What Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide or CO, is a colorless, odorless gas. Unlike natural gas (which is altered to have a distinct ssmell), carbon monoxide is odorless. You may not know your’re breathing carbon monoxide until it is too late. Carbon monoxide typically enters a home through a faulty wall heater, furnace, stove, clothes dryer, gas-powered fireplace, generator, or BBQ. At high enough levels, carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly. At lower levels, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause permanent brain damage and other physiological injuries. Although there is a small amount of carbon monoxide in the air we breathe everyday, carbon monoxide above those amounts can be harmful depending on the amount of carbon monoxide present and the length of exposure.
Why Is Carbon Monoxide So Dangerous?
When people are exposed to carbon monoxide, the carbon monoxide molecules displace the oxygen in their red blood cells. Instead of the red blood cells carrying oxygen to your brain, the carbon monoxide molecules take the place of oxygen molecules and deprives your brain of the oxygen it needs to survive. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be extremely harmful. California Health & Safety Code, Section 13261 states that there are well-documented chronic health effects of acute carbon monoxide poisoning or prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide, including:
- Concentration problems,
- Forgetfulness and amnesia,
- CO-induced Parkinsonism, and
- Personality and behavior changes.
Along with the above dangers — and perhaps most terrifying — is that carbon monoxide can be deadly. Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States. Since carbon monoxide has no odor, color, or taste, it cannot be detected by your senses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that carbon monoxide kills approximately 500 people each year and injures another 20,000 people nationwide. Some people refer to carbon monoxide as the “silent killer” because humans cannot tell when they are around it—making carbon dioxide all the more dangerous.
Can I Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
In an effort to lessen the likelihood of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, you can try to ensure that fuel-burning appliances and heating devices are:
- Properly installed,
- Well-ventilated, and
- Regularly maintained.
You can also lessen the chance of poisoning by not using certain items (for example, generators, charcoal grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline or charcoal burning devices) inside your home, basement, or garage. These devices are a significant cause of carbon monoxide poisoning and absolutely should never be used indoors. However, even with the knowledge of its dangers and taking precautions, there is no guarantee that carbon monoxide will not enter your dwelling or garage. Thankfully, California and 26 other states recognize that one of the best protections is to mandate that all homes with a gas appliance have one or more carbon monoxide alarms.
What Is a Carbon Monoxide Alarm?
Carbon monoxide alarms detect the poisonous gas and provide early warning. In the event of a carbon monoxide leak, you need to get to fresh air as soon as possible. Carbon monoxide alarms can provide you and your family with a clear warning so that you can get outside and the source of the carbon monoxide as soon as possible.
Think of a carbon monoxide alarm in light of the more familiar smoke detector. The smoke detector guards your home at all times. When it first senses smoke, it sounds an alarm so that you can escape the danger. The carbon monoxide detector will do the same but in response to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Several companies manufacture and sell combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms with ten year batteries. These devices are a lifesaver if operating properly and can be found at any hardware store.
Are Carbon Monoxide Detectors Required in California Homes and Apartments?
California joined many other states that have adopted some form of requirement that homeowners and landlords install carbon monoxide alarms in residential dwellings. As of July 1, 2011, the California Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act required all single-family homes with an attached garage, gas fired appliance, gas heater or other devices that burns fossil fuel to install a carbon monoxide alarms in the home. Owners of multi-family homes were required to comply with the law by July 1, 2011. Owners of leased or rental dwellings, such as apartment buildings, were required to comply with the law by January 1, 2013. All hotels and motels were required to install a carbon monoxide alarm in each of their units by January 1, 2017. Unbelievably, there are still many landlords and hotel/motels who fail to install or maintain carbon monoxide alarms in compliance with the law.
When and Where Are Carbon Monoxide Alarms Required in California?
In California, the law requires the installation of approved carbon monoxide alarms in single-family dwellings, including all residential rental properties. The California Legislature enacted this change by amending California Health & Safety Code, Section 17926 to provide that an owner of a dwelling unit intended for human occupancy must install a carbon monoxide device, approved and listed by the State Fire Marshal, in each existing dwelling unit, hotel room, or motel having a fossil fuel burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or an attached garage.
California’s Building Code states that detectors should be installed outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of each bedroom in every dwelling unit and on every level for minimal security. However, the State Fire Marshal’s Office recommends that each sleeping room have a CO detector for maximum detection. The device should be located at least 4 inches from all exterior walls and at least 4 feet from air supply or return vents. CO devices also should be installed in basements where fuel-fired appliances are installed and in all dwelling units that have attached garages.
What Should I Do if I Think I Have Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
First, get outside and medical help. Your symptoms may include having unexplained headaches, weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, or loss of consciousness. Go immediately to the emergency room and tell them you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. Medical professionals can treat your symptoms and test for carbon monoxide in your blood to determine if you have been recently exposed to carbon monoxide.
Second, contact a law firm that specializes in seeking justice when a person’s rental home or apartment has caused them harm. Look for a firm that offers a free consultation and has a history of getting solid settlements for clients. If your landlord violated laws and you suffered injuries due to carbon monoxide, you may be able to sue them. Experienced carbon monoxide lawyers can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Contact Riley | Ersoff LLP Today
Our attorneys have a proven track record of success in representing tenants. If you think your landlords or property owners have violated your rights, come and speak with us. We will take the time to talk to you and address your concerns. Don’t let intimidation tactics by landlords or fear of the legal system stop you. Contact us now. We handle cases involving lead poisoning, slum housing, illegal evictions, carbon monoxide poisoning, and more.