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Does Your Home or Residential Property Have Enough Carbon Monoxide Detectors? The New Law You Should Know About

Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 7:37 AM by Elizabeth Chrisp

Nebraska’s Carbon Monoxide Safety Act (“the Act”) became effective on January 1, 2017, and requires the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in various homes that are sold, rented, or significantly renovated.[1]  Although we are already four months into 2017, the Act and its requirements may be news to some owners, landlords, property managers, and tenants.  The purpose of this blog is to briefly explain why carbon monoxide gas should be detected, when the Act applies, how many detectors are required in a particular property, and the new duties the Act imposes on landlords and tenants.

Known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be found in fumes from sources such as furnaces, grills, gas fireplaces, and running vehicles.  The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are analogous to symptoms one would experience with the flu, including headaches, dizziness, and vomiting.   According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.[2]  

Nebraska lawmakers passed Legislative Bill 34 last year which requires that carbon monoxide detectors be installed in the following properties if they have a fuel-fired heater or appliance, a fireplace, or an attached garage:

  • Any multifamily dwelling or single-family dwelling constructed on or after January 1, 2017;[3]
  • Any single-family dwelling or existing multifamily dwelling unit that is offered for sale or transfer on or after January 1, 2017;[4]
  • Any single-family dwelling or multifamily dwelling unit that undergoes any interior alteration, repair, fuel-fired appliance replacement, or addition which requires a permit and occurs on or after January 1, 2017;[5] and
  • Any single-family dwelling or a dwelling unit in a multifamily dwelling that is used for rental purposes that undergo any interior alteration, repair, fuel-fired appliance replacement, or addition where a permit is required on or after January 1, 2017.[6]

In addition to those properties above, carbon monoxide detectors are required for any existing single-family dwelling or in each unit of a multifamily dwelling[7] that is used for rental purposes and that has a change in tenant occupancy on or after January 1, 2017.[8]  This is arguably the biggest change because the Act includes all rental properties and does not limit its scope to rental properties that have a fuel-fired heater or appliance, a fireplace, or an attached garage. 

If your property falls into one of the categories above, multiple carbon monoxide detectors may be required.  The Act requires that a carbon monoxide detector be installed on each habitable floor of each dwelling unit in a multifamily dwelling and on each habitable floor in a single-family dwelling or in a location specified in any building code adopted by the state or by the political subdivision in which the dwelling is located.[9]

While there is no doubt that carbon monoxide detectors serve to remedy an immediate threat, landlords and property managers quickly begin to do the math.  At approximately $20 each, carbon monoxide detectors can quickly add up to a large, unanticipated expense, and this is especially true if detectors are required in multiple units and on multiple floors within a single building.  Do not attempt to cut costs by purchasing bargain-priced detectors because the Act requires that the detector meet proper certification standards. [10]  For example, many detectors are stamped and approved by Underwriter Laboratories.  Costs may be reduced, however, by purchasing combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as long as the alarms are distinct from one another.[11]  The detector can be wired into a home, but the Act requires a battery backup.[12]

Aside from requiring the installation of additional carbon monoxide detectors, the Act also imposes certain duties on landlord and tenants.  Prior to the commencement of a new tenancy, after January 1, 2017, owners of rental properties must ensure that batteries are provided to the tenant and they must repair or fix any deficiency in the carbon monoxide detector once notified by the tenant.[13]  Tenants are required to keep, test, and maintain all carbon monoxide alarms in good repair, and notify the owner or owner’s agent if the carbon monoxide detector is removed or becomes inoperable.[14]  Finally, the Act prohibits anyone from removing batteries from carbon monoxide detectors, or rendering them inoperable in any way, except for permissible purposes such as repair or replacement.[15]

If you have questions about whether your property falls under the Act or are considering updating your lease to reflect the additional duties imposed on landlord and tenants, please contact our office.  We recommend including a provision for every duty landlord and tenants are responsible for so both parties are aware of all of their obligations during the duration of the tenancy. 

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[1] Seller Property Condition Disclosure Statements now also require information relating to compliance with the Act.  Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-2,120(4)(k).

[2] Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm (last updated Dec. 30, 2015).

[3] Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-603.

[4] Id. §§ 76-604(1), 76-605(1).

[5] Id. § 76-604(2) (providing that exterior alterations which require a building permit are exempted); id. § 76-605(2).

[6] Id. § 76-606(1).

[7]  Under the Act, a multifamily dwelling includes a condominium or cooperative.  Id. § 76-602(5).

[8] Id. § 76-606(2).

[9] Id. § 76-603.

[10] Id. § 76-602(1) (providing that detectors must be “listed by a nationally recognized, independent product-safety testing and certification laboratory to conform to the standards for carbon monoxide alarms issued by such laboratory as determined by the State Fire Marshal”).

[11] Id. § 76-602(1)(d).

[12] Id. § 76-602(1)(c).

[13] Id. § 76-606(3)(a).

[14] Id. § 76-606(3)(b).

[15] Id. §§ 76-604(3), 76-605(3), 76-606(5).

 

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