Combating the Silent Killer

Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 10-13-2011

carbon monoxcide, co detector As a Colorado Landlord, Your Responsibilities for Carbon Monoxide Detectors

By Victor M. Grimm, Esq. and Rachel Brand

As a Colorado landlord, you probably know that in most cities and counties, you are responsible for putting smoke detectors near every bedroom.

But did you know that no matter where you own property in Colorado, you are responsible for installing and maintaining carbon monoxide detectors?

Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic, invisible, odorless, colorless gas. Although frequently associated with factory work, it can come from oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves. Because it’s impossible to smell, carbon monoxide is highly dangerous.

Passed in 2009, the Lofgren and Johnson Families Carbon Monoxide Safety Act says that as a general rule, you must put a carbon monoxide detector within 15 feet of the door of each room in your rental property used for sleeping.

This rule applies to single-family homes, condos, co-ops, and apartment buildings that are heated with fossil fuel, have a fuel-fired appliance, have a fireplace, or have an attached garage. (Note that the law excludes commercial properties – offices, retail stores, and warehouses.)

These detectors can be wired into electrical system, plugged into a wall (with a battery back-up), or battery-operated.

It’s not clear if they should be on the ceiling or floor. In the absence of clear guidance, it’s critical that you install the alarm or detector according to the published manufacturer’s instructions. In fact, the law says that if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, your liability is significantly limited.

As a landlord, you need to make sure alarms are working prior to the beginning of a new tenant coming in. The law also states you must give your tenant any batteries necessary to make the carbon monoxide alarm work when he or she moves in.

Tenants, on the other hand, must keep, test, and maintain the alarm in good repair. What’s more, your tenant must notify you in writing if the batteries need replacement or are not working; or if the alarm malfunctions, is damaged, or is stolen.

Finally, if your tenant sends you this notice, it’s your job to ensure the alarm returns to working order.

If those two provisions confuse you as to who is responsible for the care and feeding of the detector, don’t worry.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure the detector is powered and operational at the beginning of the lease. Further, tell your tenant to tell you ASAP if the detector has any problems.

At the same time, though, it’s not a bad idea to leave a few spare batteries with your tenant. It also wouldn’t hurt to keep a record of your maintenance, and to ask your tenant to sign a note saying the alarms are in good working order at the outset. Further, that note might spell out that the tenant understands his or her obligations to test (but not disable) the unit and to notify you of any problems with it.

For more information, see the Landlord & Tenant Guide to Colorado Leases and Evictions, 5th Edition, by Victor M. Grimm, Esq. and Denise E. Grimm.