Washington home sellers need to install carbon monoxide alarms

If you are getting ready to sell a home in Washington state, you probably need to go out and buy some carbon monoxide detectors to comply with a new state law. Washington began requiring carbon monoxide alarms for new construction on January 1, 2011, but now requires it for anyone looking to sell a home.

Carbon monoxide (CO) detectorThe new state law (RCW 19.27.530) went into effect on April 1, 2012 requires the seller of any owner-occupied single-family residence to equip the home with CO alarms before a buyer may legally occupy the residence following the sale. The building code goes on to describe where the alarms have to be installed: 1) outside of each separate sleeping area and in the immediate vicinity of each bedroom; 2) on each level of the dwelling; and 3) in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, yet poisonous gas that does kill people each year in homes. Improper combustion in furnaces or car exhaust from an attached garage can introduce dangerous levels of CO into a home, but by far the most common cases of CO poisoning are when people bring their grill inside to heat the house during a power outage, use charcoal to heat their home or bring a generator indoors. In a strangely moronic twist of law-making, the law even requires carbon monoxide alarms be installed on homes that have no fuel-fired appliances or attached garages. Yes, if your house has no actual source of CO, you still need to install these detectors. I’m assuming that they figure you are dumb enough to bring the grill inside?

I’m not going to argue against safety devices and laws. Clearly the intent is correct here. However, I’m really baffled why our legislature picked this single item to enforce when there are countless items in homes that present a hazard that you don’t have to fix to sell a place. On older homes, the space between your staircase banister spindles is often too wide, and small children can fall through. Aluminum wiring in homes built in the late 60’s-early 70’s represents a fire hazard, as do a number of types of electrical panels. Certain models of electric wall heaters are known hazards as well. Current building codes and practices don’t allow for new installation of these items, but if they are already in an older house, there is no law preventing the sale of the home, nor is there a law that requires their replacement. Someone in the CO alarm industry must have extra sway with our lawmakers, as they are going to have a windfall with this new law.

So, if you are getting your home ready for sale, go out and get yourself the required # of carbon monoxide alarms and install them. It is required.