California Carbon Monoxide Law Takes Effect

California Carbon Monoxide Law Takes Effect

By Skip Walker, MCI ACI

July 2011

California joins twenty-five other states that have adopted some form of requirement for carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in residential construction. Beginning July 1, 2011, at least one CO alarm is required in all existing single-family dwellings with either a fuel-burning heater, fuel-burning appliance, fireplaces or an attached garage. All other single-family dwellings will be required to have at least one CO alarm installed by July 1, 2013. The new law is referred to as the California Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010. This law makes significant changes to the building codes, the Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS) and also modifies the Seller's Smoke Alarm and Water Heater Bracing certification statements. This new law was part of legislation authored by Senator Lowenthal, (D) District 27 and was signed by Gov Schwarzenegger in May 2010.

The new law required that the Building Standards Commission amend the CBC Residential Code. Those changes are included in 2010 CBC Residential Code. The 2010 CBC generally took effect on Jan 1, 2011. The new rules require CO alarms/detectors in new construction and alterations/remodels with a permit value of $1,000 or more. The new CBC-R 2010 requirements are similar to the requirements for smoke alarms. If multiple CO alarms are installed, they must be interconnected. In new construction and remodels, they must be hard-wired with battery back-up power where feasable. In remodels where walls, ceiling finishes prevent and/or accessibility issues exist, then battery only CO units are allowed. CO alarms are required outside sleeping areas, there should be at least one alarm per level including finished basements, etc. Please see the code section (included for reference) for the specific requirements in new/remodel work. These requirements took effect when your local jurisdiction adopted the 2010 CBC. In general, this would have been Jan 1, 2010. In theory it could be as late as June 30, 2011. It is recommended that you verify your specific areas adoption date with the AHJ.

The next provision of the law requires CO alarms in all single family dwellings. The initial requirements took effect July 1, 2011. Only dwellings that are single family dwellings with either a fuel-burning burning heater, a fuel-burning appliance, a fireplace or an attached garage are required to have CO alarms starting July 1, 2011. All other dwellings must have a CO alarm installed by July 1, 2013. The new regulations require that existing dwellings meet the same requirements as those found in the CBC.

The act defines a single-family dwelling as: “Dwelling unit intended for human occupancy” means a single-family dwelling, factory-built home as defined in Section 19971, duplex, lodging house, dormitory, hotel, motel, condominium, stock cooperative, time-share project, or dwelling unit in a multiple-unit dwelling unit building or buildings. The act excludes governmental housing units, buildings, etc. Where the dwelling units are rental property, it is the owners responsibility to comply with the new requirements.

As general property inspectors, the section that we will undoubtedly receive the most questions on is the part that relates to On-Sale requirements. The act adds CO alarms to the TDS and consolidates both the Smoke Alarm and Water Heater Bracing certifications into the new TDS form. This eliminates two forms from the disclosure packet. The new law already requires a CO alarm in any single-family dwelling with a fuel-burning burning heater, a fuel-burning appliance, a fireplace or an attached garage, whether or not a transfer takes place or not. Unlike smoke alarms and water heater bracing, the new law does not make the installation of CO alarms a precondition of sale. It is treated as a disclosure item on the new TDS, just like a garage door opener, oven, etc. It is simply Yes the property has one or No it doesn't.

Let's look at the language in the law. First, it specifically relates to transfers of 1-4 unit residential housing. The revises the TDS to include a Yes/No for CO alarms. As you can see on the form below, CO alarms are sandwiched in between trash compactors and satellite dishes. See the language of the law that is included as reference.

__ Oven
__ Trash Compactor
__ Carbon Monoxide Device(s)
__ Satellite Dish
__ Central Air Cndtng.
__ Sprinklers
__ Sump Pump
__ Built-in Barbecue

The law places the following new language in the TDS form after the check box section for items included in the property:

* Installation of a listed appliance, device, or amenity is not a precondition of sale or transfer of the dwelling. The carbon monoxide device, garage door opener, or child-resistant pool barrier may not be in compliance with the safety standards relating to, respectively, carbon monoxide device standards of Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 13260) of Part 2 of Division 12 of, automatic reversing device standards of Chapter 12.5 (commencing with Section 19890) of Part 3 of Division 13 of, or the pool safety standards of Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 115920) of Chapter 5 of Part 10 of Division 104 of, the Health and Safety Code. Window security bars may not have quick-release mechanisms in compliance with the 1995 edition of the California Building Standards Code.

The law does include a fine of $200 dollars for property owners that do not comply. This fine relates to compliance with the general provisions of the law. A buyers relief against a seller appears limited to $100 plus associated court costs. The new law also modifies the manufactured home transfer disclosure to include the same language as the standard residential TDS.

The bill would provide that a transfer of title is not invalidated on the basis of a failure to comply with these requirements, and that the exclusive remedy for the failure to comply is an award of actual damages not to exceed $100, exclusive of any court costs and attorney’s fees.

As property inspectors, we need to find both a methodology and language to report on CO alarms in the properties we inspect. Like many, I have been recommending CO alarms for many years. I have used the general requirements for smoke alarms found in the CREIA SOP's as a basis for CO alarms. I report on the presence/absence of the alarms. In some respects, smoke alarms are an easier issue than CO alarms. A smoke alarm will always be up high, either on the ceiling or a wall. CO detector placement can vary. Some are plug-ins and may make them a challenge to locate in a furnished property.

When I do not find a CO alarm, I now use the following language in my reports:

CLIENT ADVISORY: I recommend that carbon monoxide alarms be installed as needed to ensure conformance with current safety requirements. Effective July 1, 2011, there is a phased requirement for carbon monoxide alarms in ALL dwellings. These are relatively inexpensive but important safety devices. In general, a CO alarm should be installed adjacent to sleeping areas and at least one per level. Each alarm should provide coverage for approximately 400-1,000 square feet. Please consult with the Authority Having Jurisdiction and the manufacturers installation instructions for specific recommendations. The units should be replaced periodically as indicated by the manufacturers to ensure proper function. This is generally every 5 to 7 years. Interested parties desiring further information or service should consult with a qualified trades person.

Feel free to use/not use as you wish. If you have any suggested changes or simply have a comment of your own that you would like to share, please feel free to forward it to me or post it on the T.I.E.

About the author:

Skip Walker lives in the SF Bay Area and has performed nearly 3,000 property inspections since 2003. Skip is a Master CREIA Inspector (MCI), an ASHI Certified Inspector (ACI), an ICC Certified Residential Combination Building Inspector and a F.I.R.E. Certified Inspector. Skip is the past education chair for the Silicon Valley ASHI/CREIA Chapter, CREIA 2010-2011 State Secretary, CREIA Region Three Director 2009-Current and received the CREIA Inspector of the Year award for 2011. He also holds a California Real Estate Appraisal Trainee License. Skip may be reached at (650) 873-4224 or by email at: [email protected].