BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






           SENATE TRANSPORTATION & HOUSING COMMITTEE       BILL NO: SB 183
          SENATOR ALAN LOWENTHAL, CHAIRMAN               AUTHOR:  lowenthal
                                                         VERSION: 4/13/09
          Analysis by: Mark Stivers                      FISCAL:  YES
          Hearing date: April 21, 2009







          SUBJECT:

          Carbon monoxide devices

          DESCRIPTION:

          This bill requires that a carbon monoxide device be installed in  
          existing dwellings intended for human occupancy that have a  
          fossil fuel burning appliance, a fireplace, or an attached  
          garage and authorizes the adoption of building standards to  
          require the installation of carbon monoxide devices in new  
          dwellings intended for human occupancy.  

          ANALYSIS:

          The California Building Standards Law establishes the California  
          Building Standards Commission (BSC) and the process for adopting  
          state building standards.  Under this process, relevant state  
          agencies propose amendments to model building codes, which the  
          BSC must then adopt, modify, or reject.  The Department of  
          Housing and Community Development (HCD) is the relevant state  
          agency for residential building standards.  

          Building standards are prospective in that they only to apply to  
          new construction or to existing buildings that undergo  
          alteration or rehabilitation.  In a few instances, however, the  
          Legislature has applied building standard-like requirements to  
          existing buildings.  Current law requires that all water heaters  
          in existing residential structures be braced, anchored, or  
          strapped to resist falling or horizontal displacement due to  
          earthquake motion.  Current law also requires that smoke  
          detectors be installed in all existing multifamily residential  
          dwellings and in single family dwellings which are sold.  To  
          comply with the smoke detector statute, an affected residential  




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          property owner must install a smoke detector approved and listed  
          by the State Fire Marshal.  

          With respect to multifamily rental housing, the smoke detector  
          must be operable at the time that a tenant takes possession.   
          The tenant is then responsible for notifying the owner if the  
          smoke detector becomes inoperable.  The owner must correct any  
          reported deficiencies in the smoke detector but is not in  
          violation of the law if he or she has not received notice of any  
          deficiency.  An owner may enter the unit for the purpose of  
          installing, repairing, testing, and maintaining the smoke  
          detector provided that standard notice is provided.  Failure to  
          comply is an infraction punishable by a maximum fine of $200 for  
          each offense.  

          With respect to single-family housing, a seller must provide a  
          buyer as soon as practicable prior to the sale with a written  
          statement indicating that the home is in compliance with the  
          smoke detector statute.  Real estate agents and other agents to  
          the transaction, however, are not required to monitor or ensure  
          compliance with the law.  Moreover, third-party agents to the  
          transaction are not held liable for any error, inaccuracy, or  
          omission relating to the disclosure, except that a real estate  
          agent may be held liable where he or she participates in the  
          making of the disclosure with actual knowledge of the falsity of  
          the disclosure.  The exclusive remedy for failure to comply is  
          an award of actual damages up to $100.  A transfer of title may  
          not be invalidated on the basis of a failure to comply.  

           This bill  requires that a carbon monoxide device be installed in  
          existing dwellings intended for human occupancy that have a  
          fossil fuel burning appliance, a fireplace, or an attached  
          garage.  Specifically, the bill:

           Defines a carbon monoxide device as a device designed to  
            detect carbon monoxide and produce a distinct, audible alarm.   
            The device must be tested and certified by a nationally  
            recognized testing laboratory approved by the State Fire  
            Marshall and come in one of the following forms:  

             ?    Battery-powered.
             ?    Plug-in with a battery backup.
             ?    Hard wired in to the dwelling's electrical system with a  
               battery backup.  
             ?    Connected to a monitoring system via a panel.
             ?    Combined with a smoke detector into a single unit if the  




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               alarm clearly differentiates between smoke and carbon  
               monoxide.  

           Requires the State Fire Marshall to develop a process for the  
            approval and listing of carbon monoxide devices.  The process  
            must include consideration of the effectiveness and  
            reliability of the devices, including their propensity to  
            record false alarms.

           Allows the State Fire Marshall to charge a fee to  
            manufacturers of carbon monoxide devices to cover the costs of  
            the approval and listing program and HCD's costs to develop  
            building standards related to carbon monoxide devices.

           Prohibits the marketing, distribution, and sale of carbon  
            monoxide devices that are not listed and approved by the State  
            Fire Marshall.

           Requires that an approved carbon monoxide device be installed  
            in every single-family dwelling, factory-built home,  
            apartment, condominium, duplex, lodging house, dormitory,  
            hotel, motel, stock cooperative, or time-share unit that has a  
            fossil fuel burning appliance, a fireplace, or an attached  
            garage according to the following schedule:

             ?    By January 1, 2011 in all single-family homes.
             ?    By January 1, 2012 for all other dwelling intended for  
               human occupancy.  

           Authorizes HCD to suspend enforcement of the deadlines  
            described above by up to six months if it determines, in  
            consultation with the State Fire Marshall, that there is not a  
            sufficient amount of tested and approved devices to meet the  
            requirements of the bill.

           Exempts dwellings owned by the state, the University of  
            California, or a local government.

           Allows a local government to adopt an ordinance requiring  
            installation of carbon monoxide devices if the ordinance is  
            consistent with this bill.  

           Provides that failure to install an approved device by the  
            required deadline is an infraction.  An owner shall first be  
            given a 30-day notice to correct the violation and thereafter  
            is subject to a fine of $200 for each offense.  Such fines are  




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            levied by local fire marshals or fire departments or, in cases  
            where the local government has adopted an ordinance to that  
            effect, by the local building or code enforcement department. 

           Provides that a seller's civil liability for failing to  
            install a required device is limited to actual damages not to  
            exceed $100, plus any court costs and attorney's fees.  No  
            transfer of title shall be invalidated for a seller's failure  
            to comply.

           Requires the owner of a rental dwelling to maintain one or  
            more carbon monoxide devices within the unit.  The device must  
            be operable at the time that the tenant takes possession. The  
            tenant is then responsible for notifying the owner if he or  
            she becomes aware that the device is inoperable. The owner  
            must correct any reported deficiencies in the device but is  
            not in violation of the law if he or she has not received  
            notice of any deficiency.  An owner may enter a dwelling unit  
            to install, repair, maintain, or test a device.  The owner  
            must give reasonable notice and enter during normal business  
            hours except in case of an emergency.

           Revises the statutory transfer disclosure statement that the  
            seller of a manufactured home or a one- to four-unit  
            residential property must provide to a buyer by 1) requiring  
            the seller to check off whether or not the property has one or  
            more carbon monoxide devices; 2) adding a footnote to the form  
            advising buyers that installation of a carbon monoxide device  
            is not a precondition of sale; and 3) requiring a seller to  
            certify, as opposed to a check-off on the list of present  
            items, that the property is in compliance with laws requiring  
            smoke detectors and the bracing of water heaters.

           Authorizes HCD, after consultation with the State Fire  
            Marshall, to propose building standards requiring the  
            installation of carbon monoxide devices in new dwellings  
            intended for human occupancy.

           Provides that if building standards for carbon monoxide  
            devices are updated after July 1, 2010, a building owner shall  
            not have to install a new device unless a building permit for  
            work in excess of $1000 is requested. 
          
          COMMENTS:

           1.Purpose of the bill  .  The Air Resources Board estimates that  




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            every year in California carbon monoxide poisoning accounts  
            for between 30 and 40 deaths, between 175 and 700 emergency  
            room and hospital visits, and possibly thousands of illnesses.  
             According to the author, these deaths and illnesses are  
            preventable through the use of carbon monoxide devices.  The  
            author further states that carbon monoxide devices provide a  
            vital, highly effective, and low-cost protection against  
            carbon monoxide poisoning.  Studies show that equipping every  
            home with two carbon monoxide devices cuts accident-related  
            costs by 93 percent.  Eighteen states and a number of large  
            cities have already passed laws mandating the use of carbon  
            monoxide devices.  The author believes that adopting such a  
            mandate in California will significantly improve public  
            health.  The existing building standards process can apply  
            such a mandate to newly-constructed units, but an act of the  
            Legislature is necessary to require installation of carbon  
            monoxide devices in existing homes.

           2.Hearing results  .  On November 27, 2007, the Senate  
            Transportation and Housing Committee conducted an  
            informational hearing on the topic of preventing carbon  
            monoxide poisoning.  Upon conclusion of the hearing, committee  
            staff made the following findings:

                 Carbon monoxide poisoning significantly impacts the  
               public health, resulting in dozens of fatalities, hundreds  
               of hospitalizations, and thousands of illnesses in  
               California each year.
                 Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs most frequently as a  
               result of the improper installation or maintenance of  
               furnaces and stoves in the home, but also is commonly the  
               result of the improper use of grills, generators, and  
               camping equipment indoors or of idling engines in attached  
               garages. 
                 Carbon monoxide poisoning is of equal if not greater  
               concern in older homes due to the existence of older  
               appliances or the lack of central heating.  
                 Carbon monoxide poisoning is generally preventable  
               through better education of consumers and improved  
               maintenance of combustion appliances.
                 When carbon monoxide does enter a home, carbon monoxide  
               devices can and do alert the residents and prevent or  
               significantly decrease the severity of a poisoning.
                 With respect to the technology used for carbon monoxide  
               devices, there may be room for improvement.
                 Any legislation to require the installation of carbon  




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               monoxide devices in homes would need to provide guidance on  
               the number of devices required and where they should be  
               placed.
                 Any legislative mandate must be coupled with a public  
               campaign that educates consumers on the hazards of carbon  
               monoxide poisoning, the requirements of the law, and the  
               need to replace devices at the end of their useful life.   
               Emergency service providers must also receive training in  
               response protocols for possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

            This bill addresses many of the findings from the hearing in  
            that it seeks to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning through the  
            required use of carbon monoxide devices, covers older homes,  
            ensures equipment quality by requiring installation of devices  
            approved and listed by the State Fire Marshall, and partially  
            addresses the issue of placement of devices by authorizing the  
            adoption of building standards for new units.  The bill does  
            not include an education component for either consumers or  
            emergency service providers.  

           1.Costs and benefits  .  A quick search on the internet found  
            carbon monoxide devices ranging in price from $18 to hundreds  
            of dollars, with many models offered in the $20-$40 range.   
            Using this latter range, the total cost of purchasing one  
            device for each of the roughly 13 million households in  
            California would range from $260 to $520 million.  Homes may  
            require more than one device, which would increase the total  
            cost accordingly.  Carbon monoxide devices are considered to  
            have a useful life of four to seven years, meaning that  
            dwelling owners would be required to replace their devices at  
            some interval.

            On the other hand, a carbon monoxide device mandate has the  
            potential to significantly reduce the 30 to 40 deaths that  
            occur each year in California due to unintentional carbon  
            monoxide poisoning.  Additional societal savings would result  
            from reduced hospital visits and disabilities that result from  
            carbon monoxide poisoning and the lost productivity and wages  
            that accompany them.    

           2.Recent actions of the International Code Council  .  In  
            September 2008, the International Code Council, an entity that  
            adopts and publishes model codes which are the basis for many  
            state building codes including California, added a new section  
            to its International Residential Code requiring builders of  
            newly-constructed one- and two-unit dwellings that have  




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            fuel-fired appliances or attached garages to install an  
            approved carbon monoxide device outside of each separate  
            sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of bedrooms.  In  
            addition, the new section requires installation of a carbon  
            monoxide device in existing dwellings that have fuel-fired  
            appliances or attached garages when work requiring a building  
            permit occurs.  While the addition of this section to a model  
            code does not create a requirement by itself and does not bind  
            any state to include this section in its own codes, it  
            indicates that there is some level of consensus within the  
            code community that carbon monoxide monitors protect public  
            safety and are cost-effective and reliable.  HCD plans to  
            adopt this requirement for newly-constructed one- and two-unit  
            dwellings in its next code revision cycle and is considering  
            applying it to other residential occupancies as well, such  
            buildings of three or more units, hotels, and dorms.

           3.Previous legislation  .  The author of this bill authored a  
            similar piece of legislation last year.  Governor  
            Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 1386, stating:

               While I am certainly concerned with the health and safety  
               of Californians, this bill is an undesirable approach.   
               Building standards should not be statutory.  The Building  
               Standards Commission (BSC) was created to ensure an open  
               public adoption process allowing experts to develop  
               standards and periodic updates to the building codes.   
               Placing building standards in statute rather than  
               regulation circumvents the existing state regulatory  
               adoption process and excludes the input of safety and  
               construction experts.

               Smoke detectors in homes were approved by the BSC after a  
               process of review of the safety, need, and reliability of  
               the product. This process should be utilized for carbon  
               monoxide devices.

               Additionally, product reliability is an issue that has also  
               affected attempts to require carbon monoxide devices  
               through national building codes.  The International Code  
               Council, which writes a national model building code,  
               recently rejected two proposals to require the installation  
               of carbon monoxide devices in new residential dwellings,  
               citing the lack of clear direction for placement of the  
               devices and the propensity for false alarm indications.  A  
               recent test study indicated that alarm technology is not  




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               adequately reliable, resulting in false alarms or no alarm  
               at all.

            In an attempt to address the Governor's concerns, this bill  
            differs from SB 1386 in that the mandate applies only to  
            owners of existing dwellings, over which state agencies that  
            adopt building standards have no jurisdiction.  The author  
            will defer to the current building standards process for new  
            construction.  In addition, the author points out that the  
            national standards for carbon monoxide devices were recently  
            strengthened and that concerns about reliability have largely  
            subsided.  

           4.Guidance needed for the number and placement of devices in  
            existing dwellings  .  One of the findings from the committee's  
            2007 hearing was that any legislation to require the  
            installation of carbon monoxide devices should provide  
            guidance on the number of devices required and where they  
            should be placed.  By allowing for the adoption of building  
            standards, this bill allows HCD to provide such guidance with  
            respect to new construction.  The bill, however, does not  
            provide such guidance for the owners of existing dwellings,  
            except to say that the devices should be installed in  
            accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, which may  
            encourage the purchase of more devices than necessary.  While  
            it is difficult to set such standards in statute, the  
            committee may wish to consider an amendment to require that  
            the owners of existing dwellings install devices in a manner  
            consistent with building standards applicable to new  
            construction or the manufacturer's instructions, if it is  
            technically feasible to do so.  

           5.Differences with the smoke detector mandate  .  Current law  
            requires that smoke detectors be installed in all  
            single-family dwellings prior to sale.  To ensure that this  
            requirement is met, current law requires a seller to provide a  
            buyer prior to sale with a written statement indicating that  
            the home is in compliance with the smoke detector statute.  

            This bill takes a different approach for carbon monoxide  
            devices.  The mandate applies to all homeowners as of January  
            1, 2011, regardless of whether or not the home is sold.  While  
            a seller must disclosure whether or not the home has a carbon  
            monoxide device, installation of a device is not a  
            precondition of sale, and the device need not be installed as  
            required.  This approach is the result of the author's  




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            negotiations with the California Association of Realtors,  
            which dislikes point-of-sale requirements.  

           6.Technical amendments  .  

                 On page 16, line 20 after "2075" insert "or successor  
               standards"
                 On page 17, line 8 strike "17926.3" and insert "17926.2"
                 On page 18, lines 7-8 strike ", efficiency dwelling  
               unit, guest room, and suite" and insert "intended for human  
               occupancy"
                 On page 18, line 10 strike "single station"
                 On page 18, line 28 strike "17926.3" and insert  
               "17926.2"
                 On page 18, line 30 strike "17926.3" and insert  
               "17926.2"
                 On page 18, lines 32-33 strike "consistent with the  
               intent of the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of  
               2009" with "to require the installation of carbon monoxide  
               devices in dwellings intended for human occupancy"
                 On page 19, strike lines 5-9 and insert "(b) If the  
               California Building Standards Commission adopts or updates  
               building standards relating to carbon monoxide devices, the  
               owner or"
                 On page 19, line 11 strike "regulations or"

          9.   Double referral  .  The Senate Rules committee has  
            double-referred this bill to both this committee and the  
            Judiciary Committee.  

          POSITIONS:  (Communicated to the Committee before noon on  
          Wednesday, 
                     April 15, 2009)

               SUPPORT:  California Coalition for Children's Safety &  
          Health (sponsor)
                         One individual

               OPPOSED:  None received.