Residential property owners in Baltimore City and County may be required to install carbon monoxide (CO) detectors under separate local ordinances enacted in each jurisdiction. Effective March 1, 2010, Baltimore City requires CO detectors to be installed in all new and existing residential dwellings, hotels, and other buildings used for living or sleeping, if the dwelling uses gas or fossil fuel burning furnaces or appliances. In Baltimore County, the property owner is required by October 13, 2010, to install CO detectors in new and existing residential housing units in which fuel burning equipment is installed or that are attached to an enclosed parking area.
State law already requires the installation of CO detectors in newly constructed buildings for which a building permit is issued after January 1, 2008, if the building relies on the combustion of a fossil fuel for heat, ventilation, hot water, or clothes dryer operation; however, the state law does not prevent local jurisdictions from enacting more stringent requirements.
Why is Carbon Monoxide a Problem?
CO is a colorless, odorless gas, which may pose a serious threat to human health and safety if there is prolonged exposure. CO poisoning can cause headaches, nausea, and shortness of breath, and in severe cases, faintness and even death. Malfunctioning furnaces and other fuel-burning appliances are a common source of CO leaks. Early detection of CO is necessary to detect leaks before they can cause health risks.
From 2008 through 2009, the Baltimore City Fire Department responded to more than 3,600 CO poisoning calls. In 2008, Baltimore County had more than 1,300 recorded CO incidents. CO poisoning was recently in the news again in February 2010, with the sickening of several passengers on a cruise ship docked in Baltimore. Since 2000, more than 25 people have died in Baltimore City as a result of CO poisoning. Because CO poisonings are preventable with early intervention, and CO is undetectable without a detector, the local ordinances are intended to protect the public health and save lives.
Baltimore City Requirements
In Baltimore City, the law applies to new or existing dwellings that (1) use gas or fossil fuels for heating, cooking, hot water or clothes drying; (2) are attached to a garage; or (3) have a gas or wood burning fireplace. Owners are required to supply and install one or more CO alarms, and except for alarms in a tenant-occupied dwelling, test and maintain the alarms according to manufacturer’s guidelines. If the alarm is in a tenant-occupied dwelling, the owner must supply and install one or more CO alarms and provide written information on alarm testing and maintenance and the tenant is then responsible for the testing, maintenance, and battery replacement.
A CO detector must be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area in the dwelling, and have battery power or electrical power with a battery backup. A CO alarm may be combined with a smoke alarm if the combined device complies with all applicable state and local laws and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards 217 and 2034.
If a tenancy is occupied by a person who is hearing impaired and the tenant has asked for the alarm in writing by certified or registered mail, the owner must provide a CO alarm that is designed (and tested and certified by an approved laboratory) to alert persons with hearing impairments.
The Baltimore City ordinance was enacted in September 2008, but did not take effect until March 1 of this year.
Baltimore County Requirements
In Baltimore County, the law applies to a new or existing housing unit in which fuel burning equipment is installed or that is attached to an enclosed parking area. The property owner must; (1) supply and install one or more CO alarms; (2) provide written information on alarm testing and maintenance to at least one adult occupant of the housing unit; and (3) secure and maintain the signature of the adult to whom the written information is provided, acknowledging receipt of the information. The occupant must test and maintain the alarm according to manufacturer guidelines, replace the batteries as needed, and notify the property owner of any malfunction or other problem with the alarm.
The CO alarm must be installed in the common area outside of and audible in each sleeping area in the housing unit, must be attached to a wall or ceiling and maintained in accordance with applicable standards or manufacturer’s recommendations, must have battery power or electrical power with a battery backup, and shall sound a “distinctively different alarm” than a smoke alarm within the same housing unit. A CO alarm may be combined with a smoke alarm if the combined device complies with all applicable state and local laws and UL standards 217 and 2034.
If a tenancy is occupied by a person who is hearing impaired and the tenant has asked for the alarm in writing by certified mail, the owner must provide a CO alarm that is designated to alert persons with hearing impairments.
Property Owner Certification that the housing is in compliance with the new law is required within 30 days after the housing unit is subject to the new law. The Baltimore County law was enacted in December 2009, but property owners have until October 13, 2010, to comply.
If you have questions regarding Carbon Monoxide Detector requirements, the Gordon Feinblatt attorney with whom you regularly work as well as the Firm’s Real Estate and Environmental Practice Groups are ready to help you.