As its latest effort to make the world a safer place, the Colorado General Assembly passed House Bill 09-1091 – the Lofgren and Johnson Families Carbon Monoxide Safety Act. As you would assume, the name given the act is in memory of two families that suffered untimely deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The goal of the act is to – eventually – require the installation of carbon monoxide alarms in all residential properties.

Starting July 1, if you sell your house, you will need to have a carbon monoxide alarm in place within 15 feet of each room in the house used for sleeping. (The act isn’t clear about this, but I don’t think rooms where you fall asleep watching television are meant to be covered.) Sellers of multifamily properties have a similar obligation. The contract form that licensed real estate brokers must use will, starting July 1, include language describing this requirement.

Next, if you remodel your house in any way that requires a building permit, or that adds sleeping rooms, you will, at that time, need to outfit your house with carbon monoxide alarms. The same rule applies to owners of multifamily properties.

As for rental properties, landlords will need to install carbon monoxide alarms the next time a new tenant moves in. (Existing tenants will just have to take their chances.) Then, the law imposes on the tenant an obligation to test the alarm, keep it in good condition, and report to the landlord any defects in operation, including dead batteries. If a tenant makes a report of defective operation, the landlord is required to promptly fix the problem. After the initial installation of a carbon monoxide alarm, the landlord must, each time there is a change of tenant, check to be sure the alarm hasn’t been stolen and is still functioning properly.

Demonstrating the careful and detailed thought that goes into drafting new legislation, the act allows for the use of devices that are both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.

However, such combination devices must produce a distinct warning for each hazard, thereby allowing occupants of a dwelling to know whether they are facing death by fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

The act gives protection from liability for property owners, alarm installers and real estate brokers who comply with the act. Although the act itself doesn’t say this, Personal Injury Law 101 teaches that a failure to comply with the act would serve nicely as the basis for a claim for civil damages resulting from injury or death.

The act contains no penalties for a violation. The theory seems to be that the risk of civil liability, the inability to complete a sale of property, and/or the denial of a certificate of occupancy after a remodel will suffice to make the act effective.

The act states that local governments are free to impose more stringent requirements for the installation of carbon monoxide alarms, should they choose to do so.