San Francisco Apartment Association
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SF Apartment : February 2013

sacramento report

CO is a No Go

by Debra Carlton

Under California law, by January 1, 2013, all multifamily residential rental housing must be equipped with a carbon monoxide alarm when the property has a “fossil fuel”-burning heater or appliance, fireplace or an attached garage. Single-family detached homes (owner or tenant occupied) were required to install alarms by July 1, 2011.

A carbon monoxide alarm may be battery powered, a plug-in device with battery backup, or hard-wired into the dwelling unit with a battery backup. “Fossil fuel” is defined as coal, kerosene, oil, wood, fuel gases, and other petroleum or hydrocarbon products that emit carbon monoxide as a byproduct of combustion.

There are units and buildings that are exempt from the law. They include housing where the individual dwelling units do not contain a fuel-burning appliance or a garage attached directly to the units. Also, buildings or units in a building with a fuel-burning appliance or a garage attached to the building need not install a carbon monoxide alarm if: the unit is located more than one story above or below any story that contains a fuel- burning appliance or an attached garage; and the unit is not connected by duct work or ventilation shafts to any room containing a fuel-burning appliance or to an attached garage; and the building is equipped with a common area carbon monoxide alarm system that includes all enclosed common area spaces. An “open” parking garage, as defined in the California Building Code, or an enclosed parking garage ventilated in accordance with the California Mechanical Code, shall not be deemed to be an attached garage.

Carbon Monoxide Alarm Specifics
Carbon monoxide alarms must be installed and maintained: outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms and on every level of a dwelling unit, including basements.

The carbon monoxide alarm must be operable at the time the tenant takes possession. A tenant is responsible for notifying the owner or owner’s agent if the tenant becomes aware of an inoperable or deficient carbon monoxide alarm within his or her unit. The owner or owner’s agent must correct any reported deficiencies in the carbon monoxide alarm and will not be in violation of this section for a deficient or inoperable carbon monoxide detector when he or she has not received notice of the deficiency or inoperability. An owner or the owner’s agent may enter any dwelling unit (with sufficient notice as required by existing law) for the purpose of installing, repairing, testing and maintaining carbon monoxide alarms.

Installation instructions that are included with carbon monoxide alarms typically include the following language: “For minimum security, a CO alarm should be centrally located outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms. The alarm should be located at least 6 inches (152mm) from all exterior walls and at least 3 feet (0.9 meters) from supply or return vents.”
Do not place the alarm in the following areas: outside the building; in or below a cupboard; in a damp or humid area; directly above a sink or stove/oven; next to a door or window or anywhere that would be affected by drafts; where the air flow to the alarm would be obstructed by curtains or furniture; where dirt or dust could collect and block the sensor, and stop it from functioning; in an area where the temperature could drop below 40°F or rise to above 100°F; where it could be easily knocked, damaged, or where it could be inadvertently removed; or within five feet of any cooking appliance.

While there is a penalty for failure to comply with installation, local governments must provide a property owner with a 30-day notice to correct before any penalty can be assessed. The penalty is capped at $200 per occurrence.

For more information regarding carbon monoxide alarms, go to CAA’s website at

Debra Carlton is the senior vice president of public affairs for the California Apartment Association.