Is my Landlord Required to Provide a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

For anyone who lives around working appliances, the possibility of carbon monoxide exposure is always there. For those in smaller, more confined spaces, such as an apartment, the risk of exposure rises. But carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas, so without something else to warn us, this dangerous gas can knock us out before we even know what hit us.

Taking Responsibility

In half the states in the U.S., it is required for a landlord to provide a carbon monoxide detector. You can find out if your state is among them, and what provisions are included in your state’s statute here. If you are moving into a new apartment, this should be one of the first things you should verify. In most cases, there should be a smoke detector as well. If you are moving in and don’t see these things, make sure that they are provided very soon – as in within hours, not days. It may be true that 99.9% of the time a carbon monoxide detector won’t go off, but there is no way to predict when it will, so you definitely should not go to sleep without one installed – even if it means you have to go out and buy your own, and send your landlord the bill.

Ways to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Most carbon monoxide exposure comes from appliances, fireplaces and grills, so it is important to maintain and monitor these to assure that you are not exposed to the harmful gas. You should check with your landlord on how to test your CO alarm to see that it is working correctly. They may do this periodically, like once a year, but you should know how to test it yourself once a month.

Not all apartments have individual access to a furnace, a fireplace, or to a washer or dryer, but if you have any of these things in your unit, it is important that they are working properly and have the proper ventilation. Dryer filters need to be kept clean, and that the outside vents are not blocked by debris or snow. If something is not working correctly, report the problem to your apartment maintenance person so it can be fixed promptly.

Other problems can come from using grills or ovens incorrectly. Outdoor grills should never be used in or near your apartment. You oven should not be used to heat your apartment either. If your heat does not work properly, report the problem and get it fixed.

Determining if You’ve Been Exposed

Whether you are in your apartment or in someone else’s home, it is important that you know how to recognize symptoms of potential CO exposure, whether or not a detector goes off. Low and moderate level CO exposure can cause headaches, nausea, and dizziness, and may feel like the flu but will not include a fever. You may also begin to find it difficult to breathe and have unexplained fatigue. If you have these symptoms in your apartment, but they subside when you go outside you might be exposed.

If your symptoms are worse, including vomiting, confusion, or feeling faint – or you notice these symptoms in anyone else – get everyone out of the apartment and call 911 from another building or outside. You should also pull the fire alarm if possible in order to alert others that live in the building that they should leave as well.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is nothing to mess around with. If you don’t remove yourself from the source, it will ultimately lead to death. Depending on where you live your landlord may or may not actually be required to provide a carbon monoxide detector, but whether they provide one or not, you should always make sure one is included in your home.

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