New code to help reduce carbon monoxide worries

Local landlords and City of Oswego code enforcement officials are taking steps toward enforcing Amanda’s Law, which took effect in February and requires carbon monoxide detectors in all homes.

A survey conducted by Brown Yardley and DecisionAnalyst in October 2009 found that three-fourths of New York homeowners live in a multilevel home, yet 37 percent of them have only one carbon monoxide alarm installed.

Patricia Kelly, the City of Oswego housing inspector, has sent out 500-plus letters, over the past two weeks, to property owners informing them of the new law, said Neal Smith, director of the Oswego Department of Code Enforcement.

According to Smith, during the housing inspection, Kelly will look for carbon monoxide detectors in their proper locations. As of yet, there have been no fines, but the Oswego Department of Code Enforcement will draft a code violation for those who fail to install the detectors.

City of Oswego landlords are taking Amanda’s Law seriously and hope their tenants will also. "I already have carbon monoxide detectors in all my units. One on every floor where there is a bedroom and one in every basement," Oswego landlord Adam Avery said.

Avery has been a landlord for 11 years. He has 30 rental units and sends an e-mail annually to his tenants as a reminder to check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

"This law is nothing new to me. My insurance company required carbon monoxide detectors about four years ago," Avery said.

It may be unclear to many tenants, however, whose responsibility it is to take care of the detectors. Thomas Giordonello, a student at Oswego State, has been living off-campus for two years and believes it should be the landlord’s responsibility to check the batteries of the carbon monoxide detectors.

"Initially it is our responsibility as a landlord, but when the tenants move-in we hand them a move-in sheet which states it is now up to them to check the detectors," Avery said.

"CO detectors record over a length of time. They detect elevated levels of carbon monoxide and only alarm when there is a definite possibility of harming the occupants," Smith said.

Smith strongly recommends if a house has a gas stove that it ought to have a working carbon monoxide detector, but it depends on the characteristic of the particular unit. "The lowest level of bedrooms needs one as well. It is all about where the sleeping areas are in each unit," Smith said.

Greg Furlong, owner of Furlong Properties in Oswego, has been a landlord for 10 years and has 15 to 17 rental units. Amanda’s Law was a reminder for Furlong to double-check the detectors. "Some tenants will take the batteries out when they are beeping due to low battery rather than change them," Furlong said.

Furlong makes it a priority to check the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors at least three times a year. "We typically check them when they move-in, over Christmas break, and when school starts up again," Furlong said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Carbon Monoxide Detectors State Statutes for New York, "Carbon monoxide detectors required by this section are required only where the dwelling unit has appliances, devices or systems that may emit carbon monoxide or has an attached garage."

The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal named the law after 16-year-old Amanda Hansen of West Seneca, New York. Hanson died Jan. 17, 2009, due to a carbon monoxide leak from a defective boiler while she was sleeping at a friend’s house.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Web site, "Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms always have been and still are designed to alarm before potentially life-threatening levels of CO are reached."

The CPSC recommends that one carbon monoxide alarm be installed in the hallway outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area of the living area.