“ASK KARI”: The Danger of CO (Carbon Monoxide)
This article is contributed by Kari Negri, Chief Executive Officer, SKY Properties, Inc.
Dear Kari, as a landlord, what should I know about and what precautions do I need to take concerning carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced whenever a material is being burned. Clothes dryers, water heaters, furnaces or boilers, fireplaces (both gas and wood burning), and gas stoves and ovens are some of the most common sources of CO in our household. Carbon monoxide cannot be seen, it cannot be smelled, and it cannot be heard, but it can kill any one of us (or your tenants) without warning.
Carbon monoxide is also a fast killer - our red blood cells absorb carbon monoxide at a much faster rate than oxygen. At high levels, CO crowds out the oxygen in our bloodstream. If you breathe too much carbon monoxide into your lungs, organs such as your brain and heart become quickly deprived of oxygen, thus causing tissue death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at least 430 people die in the U.S. each year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit a hospital emergency department each year due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. This is a substantial number and warrants precautions to be taken in both landlord and tenant education. Many tenants will unplug a device that is meant to detect and warn of carbon monoxide and put it in a drawer if it is making noise (beeping intermittently) on a consistent basis. The device is usually just signaling that the battery is low, so that your tenants should just replace the battery, and should for their own well-being and safety.
Just recently, 3 people were found dead in an apartment they had rented through Airbnb because of carbon monoxide poisoning. Their bodies were found only after the security guards in the apartment complex smelled the intense smell of gas in the apartment. Airbnb said it was a ‘terrible tragedy’ and that they are willing to support those who are affected. Sadly, it was a ‘terrible tragedy’ that could have been prevented! As property managers our job is to avoid having a ‘terrible tragedy’ happen to begin with. This means due diligence on our part to provide the support and education our tenants need to make good decisions and know what the hazards can be.
We at SKY Properties follow safety guidelines for a reason. All apartment units that we manage have at least one functioning plug-in with a battery backup operational carbon monoxide detector installed in every apartment. We install the detectors in the common area where they can be heard from the bedroom, preferably between the heater and the bedrooms. We have also begun purchasing combination smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors that plug into the area in the hallway ceiling where the smoke detectors go and have 10-year lithium batteries.
To keep gas appliances operating safely and efficiently, they need to be used regularly. At SKY Properties we also check the detectors semi-annually. If they have even the slightest smell of gas, they should be checked by a licensed professional. In 2019, at least 8 tenants of an apartment complex in the Los Angeles area were taken to a hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning and the problem was traced to the water heater. It was determined that there was "a compromised venting system on the water heater allowing products of combustion into the unit," which may have been the result of not performing yearly maintenance. Carbon Monoxide poisoning may be a silent killer, but it is ABSOLUTELY PREVENTABLE. And it is up to us, property managers, and owners, to ensure that our tenants are safe from it.
SKY Properties are not carbon monoxide experts; and this article is based on their experience and research to provide readers with important information. Kari Negri is the Chief Executive Officer of Sky Property Management and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. Do you have a question for me? Please send your questions and comments to me at Kari@SKYprop.LA.