landlord, real estate

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

State law requires carbon monoxide detectors in rental properties by June

Posted: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 9:45 am | Updated: 9:54 am, Wed Apr 8, 2015.

In two months, rental properties and apartments in Lancaster County and across the state will be required to have carbon monoxide detectors, according to a state law that goes into effect in June.

Local landlords, municipal officials and emergency workers say the law is a prudent one. So does Leon Martin.

Martin and his wife, Cindy, almost died from carbon monoxide poisoning in 2011 in their Ephrata Township home, after fumes from a generator in their basement garage permeated their house and sickened them.

A co-worker went to his home when the normally punctual Martin did not show up for work.

“The doctor told us we were about 20 minutes from being gone,” Martin said. “Our bodies were shutting down.”

The Martins escaped the fate of a Maryland family of eight who were found dead in their home this week, after what officials suspect were fumes from a generator in their home killed them in their sleep.

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs regularly in Lancaster County. Last year, medics responded to 66 calls when people were sickened by the odorless, colorless gas, according to county emergency management records.

Just this past winter, carbon monoxide left two Lancaster Township people in critical condition.It also sickened a family of four and may have killed two brothers, who died after using their gas oven to heat their home. Their autopsy results are pending.

Another Lancaster Township couple died shortly before Thanksgiving last year, after officials said carbon monoxide from a car in an attached garage seeped into their home and killed them.

The new state law adds another layer of safety for people in rental units, joining some other requirements already on the books.

State residential codes already require carbon monoxide detectors in new homes and in one- or two-family dwellings that have a fossil fuel-burning heater/appliance, fireplace or an attached garage.

Municipal officials are actively enforcing those codes, said Dennis Landvater, a code compliance official in Elizabethtown.

“When I do inspections, it’s required,” he said.

Ephrata Borough has been informing landlords about the new law since last year and property owners are complying and installing the detectors, said D. Robert Thompson, borough manager. The borough is still reaching out to owners of smaller buildings, he said.

However, local municipalities are not in charge of enforcing the new state law that requires the detectors in multi-family dwellings. Non-compliance is punishable with a fine of up to $50.

But owners likely would face legal liability as well, said Gary Horning, the Lancaster City bureau chief of code compliance and inspections.

“It puts the onus on property owners to deal with these,” Horning said. “It puts the legal responsibility on the property owner.”

Local landlords and property managers say it makes sense to install the detectors.

“People don’t know what can cause the problem. A blocked chimney is invisible, as is carbon monoxide,” said Sam Gorgone, owner of Hometown Property Management Services, who manages more than 200 properties.

Gary Neff, owner of City Limits Realty,  said the detectors provide a lot of bang for the buck. Carbon monoxide detectors cost between $20 and $50 (for models not connected to a smoke detector).

“When there’s a problem, there’s a big problem,” said Neff, who owns more than 100 properties. “To put a carbon monoxide detector in, that makes a lot of sense.”

To emergency officials, the law is a no-brainer.

“I support it,” said county emergency management coordinator Randy Gockley. “We’ve had a number of close calls in Lancaster County and incidents where people have lost their lives.”

Rick Harrison, operations manager at the county’s 911 center, said the detectors have definitely saved lives in Lancaster County.

“Absolutely, they make sense,” he said.

Leon Martin agrees.

After he and his wife had their close call, he purchased carbon monoxide detectors for his home.

“We now have six of them,” he said. “We put them under our smoke alarms.”