Every fall the furnaces turn on for the first time of the season, and many need servicing and repairs. But furnaces and heaters are inherently one of the most dangerous appliances in a home or apartment building, and each year cause fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and deaths. The first U.S. heater-related death of the season occurred last month when a tenant in a Colorado Springs apartment building passed away due to a carbon monoxide leak that did not set off the carbon monoxide alarm.
Laura Russman of the Apartment Association of Colorado commented, “A working detector is your only line of defense when you are sleeping and there’s smoke, carbon monoxide, and fire.”
Unfortunately the detector was unable to save tenant Benito Valdez, who was 50 years old and died on October 7, 2012 after a furnace malfunctioned and churned out toxic fumes through the vents and into his apartment.
Firefighters who were called to the scene stated that the detector was not working because it was not plugged in. Chief Tracy Billipando of the Colorado Springs Fire Department said, “It is that season to make sure and check that your detectors are plugged in and functioning properly.”
The law in Colorado requires all rental apartments and buildings to contain at least one working carbon monoxide and smoke detector. Landlords and property managers should be aware of all state and local regulations regarding smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and be sure that all rental properties are equipped with properly placed, working detectors at the time of lease signing. The general rule of thumb is to install a working smoke detector in every bedroom and a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector on every floor. Some states and municipalities also require the detectors to be hard-wired and connected together, with a battery backup.
For renters, it is vital to check the lease agreement and make note of who is responsible for making sure the detectors are working properly.
Russman went on to say, “Every time you sign your lease, make sure the landlord makes a note in writing that the detectors are in place and working properly.”
Tenants should know however, that once the keys are in their hands, it then becomes their responsibility. If a detector or furnace is not working properly, it is up to the tenant to notify the property manager or landlord to get the detector fixed, and generally speaking it is the tenant’s responsibility to keep working batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.