BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  SB 183
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          Date of Hearing:   June 30, 2009

                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
                                  Mike Feuer, Chair
                   SB 183 (Lowenthal) - As Amended:  June 22, 2009

           SENATE VOTE :  21-12
          SUBJECT  :  Residential Building Safety: Carbon Monoxide Detectors

           KEY ISSUE  :  Should carbon monoxide detectors be required in all  
          single family homes by January 1, 2011, and all other  
          residential units by July 1, 2012? 

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  As currently in print this bill is keyed fiscal.  


          This bill would require the State Fire Marshall to certify and  
          approve carbon monoxide detection devices and require that  
          approved and certified devices be installed in existing single  
          family dwellings by January 1, 2011, and all other residential  
          units by July 1, 2012.  In addition, this measure will prohibit  
          the marketing, distribution, and sale of devices that are not  
          certified and approved by the State Fire Marshall.  At least 16  
          other states have adopted some form of legislation requiring  
          carbon monoxide detection devices and several others are  
          considering it.  Existing law in California already requires  
          that smoke detectors be installed in all rental units and that  
          all single-family homes must be adequately equipped with smoke  
          detectors prior to transfer.  The trend toward requirements in  
          other states, as well as internationally, is seemingly supported  
          by statistics showing that carbon monoxide has become the  
          leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths, and that the vast  
          majority of these deaths occur in the home.  Supporters of this  
          measure contend that the devices are becoming less costly and  
          more effective and reliable.  Moreover, the California Building  
          Standards Commission (CBSC) has apparently already concluded  
          that the devices are necessary and cost effective, as it  
          recently approved regulations requiring devices in all new  
          construction.  In light of the CBSC action, this bill applies  
          only to existing structures.  Last year's SB 1386, by the same  
          author, would have required installation of carbon monoxide  
          devices in  both  new construction and existing dwellings.   


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          However, that bill was vetoed in large part on the grounds that  
          new construction should be subject to regulatory provisions  
          adopted through standard CBSC procedures.  The action by the  
          CBSC and the limitation of this bill to existing structures  
          would seem to address the concerns expressed in the veto  
          message.  This bill is supported by a diverse group of  
          organizations.  There is no registered opposition to the current  
          version of the bill. 

           SUMMARY  :  Requires the installation of carbon monoxide detection  
          devices in existing dwellings intended for human occupancy, as  
          prescribed.  Specifically,  this bill  :   

          1)Requires the State Fire Marshall to certify and approve carbon  
            monoxide (CO) devices for use in dwelling units intended for  
            human occupancy and requires the State Fire Marshall to charge  
            an appropriate fee to the manufacturer of a carbon monoxide  
            device to cover the costs associated with the approval and  
            listing of carbon monoxide devices.  Specifies that the  
            certification and decertification process shall include a  
            review of the manufacturer's instructions and their  
            consistency with applicable building standards. 

          2)Requires a CO device that has been approved by the State Fire  
            Marshall to be installed in any existing dwelling intended for  
            human occupancy that has a fossil fuel burning heater or  
            appliance, fireplace, or attached garage within the following  
            time frames: for all existing single-family dwellings on or  
            before January 1, 2001; for all other dwellings on or before  
            July 1, 2012. 

          3)Prohibits the marketing, distribution, or sale of CO devices  
            unless the devices and instructions have been approved and  
            listed with the State Fire Marshall. 

          4)Provides that violation of the above provisions is an  
            infraction punishable by a maximum fine not to exceed $200 for  
            each offense.  However, a property owner shall receive a  
            30-day notice to correct.

          5)Provides that no transfer of title shall be invalidated  
            because of a failure to comply with the above provisions, and  
            the exclusive remedy for failure to comply with this section  
            is an award of actual damages not to exceed $100, exclusive of  
            any court costs and attorney fees. 


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          6)Requires an owner or owner's agent who rents or leases a  
            dwelling unit to maintain CO devices and permits the owner or  
            owner's agent to enter that dwelling unit to install, repair,  
            test, or maintain CO devices, as specified.  Specifies that a  
            CO device must be operable at the time that a tenant takes  
            possession, but that a tenant is responsible for notifying the  
            owner or owner's agent if the CO device becomes inoperable or  

          7)Revises real estate transfer disclosure statements to provide  
            for disclosures relating to the existence of CO devices. 

          8)Provides that if the State Fire Marshall determines that a  
            sufficient amount of tested and approved CO devices are not  
            available in time to meet the requirements of this bill, then  
            the department may suspend enforcement of requirements for up  
            to six months. 

          9)Provides that if the California Building Standards Commission  
            adopts or updates standards relating to CO devices, an owner  
            or owner's agent who has installed a CO device as required by  
            this bill shall not be required to install a new device  
            meeting the new standards until the owner makes application  
            for a permit for alterations, repairs, or additions to the  
            dwelling unit, the cost of which will exceed $1000.  

           EXISTING LAW  : 

          1)Requires a person or entity transferring real property  
            (transferor) to deliver a statutory transfer disclosure  
            statement before transfer of title or prior to close of  
            escrow, as specified.  Requires further that the seller of a  
            single-family dwelling disclose to the transferee whether the  
            dwelling has a working smoke detector as required by law.   
            (Civil Code Section 1102.3 and Health & Safety Code Section  

          2)Requires, generally, that all single family dwellings have  
            smoke detectors when sold and requires the owner of rental  
            property to install and maintain smoke detectors.  (Health &  
            Safety Code Sections 13113.7 and 13113.8.) 

           COMMENTS  :  Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and  
          dangerous gas that is produced by home furnaces, generators,  


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          fireplaces, and other devices that are powered by the burning of  
          natural gas, propane, gasoline, oil, and wood.  At lower levels  
          this gas can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea, but at  
          higher levels it can cause more serious illnesses, even death.   
          According to the bill's findings and declarations, the American  
          Medical Association claims that carbon monoxide is the leading  
          cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States, and  
          the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate  
          that carbon monoxide poisoning results in about 500 deaths per  
          year nationwide.  According to the California Air Resources  
          Board, California has about 30 to 40 deaths per year due to  
          unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning and hundreds of  
          avoidable visits to emergency rooms each year.  Carbon monoxide  
          is especially dangerous to the elderly and persons with  
          pre-existing heart or respiratory problems.

          At least sixteen states and several localities already require  
          carbon monoxide detectors, and according to the author, "there  
          is a dramatic correlation between carbon monoxide alarm  
          ordinances in states [and] cities and lower death and  
          hospitalization rates from carbon monoxide."  Existing law has,  
          for some time, required that smoke detectors be installed in  
          single family homes prior to any sale and requires owners of  
          rental units to install and maintain smoke detectors.  This  
          measure seeks to create similar requirements for carbon monoxide  
          detectors. Specifically, this bill would require the State Fire  
          Marshall to develop a process of review and certification for  
          carbon monoxide devices and manufacturer instructions.  The bill  
          would require installation of certified devices in all single  
          family homes by January 1, 2011, and in other residential units  
          by July 1, 2012.  This measure would also prohibit the  
          marketing, distribution, and sale of devices that are not  
          certified by the State Fire Marshall, and would require the  
          existence or non-existence of devices to be disclosed upon sale  
          or transfer of residential property.  

          Because the California Building Standards Commission has already  
          approved regulations that will require carbon monoxide detectors  
          in all new construction, this bill would only apply to existing  
          structures.  Violations of this bill's provisions would be an  
          infraction punishable by fine, but failure to comply would not  
          invalidate any transfer of title. 

           Legislative History and Veto of SB 1386:   Last year's SB 1386,  
          carried by the same author, would have required carbon monoxide  


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          detectors in both existing dwellings and in new construction.   
          SB 1386 was vetoed by the Governor because requirements for new  
          construction must be set forth, according to the veto message,  
          not in statute, but in administrative regulations adopted by the  
          established procedures of the California Building Standards  
          Commission.  As noted above, however, because the Commission has  
          recently adopted regulations that will require carbon monoxide  
          detectors in new construction, this bill only applies to  
          existing residential.  The Governor's veto message also noted  
          that the International Residential Code (IRC) had previously  
          rejected carbon monoxide detector proposals, questioning the  
          reliability of then-existing devices; however, as the author  
          notes in his background materials, the 2009 version of the IRC  
          requires all one- and two-family dwellings to have a carbon  
          monoxide alarm.  Thus, it appears that the objections raised in  
          the Governor's veto message have been addressed. 

           ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT  :  Support for this bill is a diverse group  
          of child health and safety advocates, housing advocates, and  
          professional, trade, and labor associations.  Safe Kids, USA,  
          believes that this bill will protect children and families from  
          avoidable death and illness.  Safe Kids claims that carbon  
          monoxide devices are "the single most effective safety device  
          available."  Safe Kids cite estimates suggesting that carbon  
          monoxide alarms could cut the number of unintentional carbon  
          monoxide deaths in half, and it cites a recommendation by the  
          U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that carbon monoxide  
          alarms, "which are just as important as smoke [alarms]" be  
          required in all homes. 

          The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which has  
          conducted its own investigations and developed its own standards  
          on carbon monoxide detectors and their proper installation,  
          strongly supports this bill.  NFPA statistics suggest that U.S.  
          fire departments have seen an 18% increase in the number of  
          carbon monoxide incidents over the last two years, and that  
          nearly 90% of these incidents took place inside the home.   
          Although carbon monoxide is odorless, silent, and invisible,  
          NFPA asserts that "this poisonous gas is [now] easily detected"  
          by devices that meet NFPA standards. 

          The California State Firefighters' Association (CSFA) strongly  
          supports this bill, which, it claims, "will provide a life  
          saving warning system, similar to the current legal requirement  
          for smoke detectors."  CFSA adds that these devices are "low  


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          cost and already required in sixteen other states." 

          The bill is supported the other groups listed below for  
          substantially the same reasons as those noted above. 

           SUPPORT IF AMENDED  :  Sempra Energy would support this measure if  
          it contained a number of specific additional requirements, such  
          as determining criteria for CO device reliability; recommending  
          that all CO devices should have an "end of life" to indicate the  
          need to be replaced; determining proper installation methods for  
          specific housing types, such as apartments, townhouses, and  
          mobile homes; and determining how this law will impact currently  
          installed devices that do not meet the new certification  
          criteria.  Except for the last item, the issue could arguably be  
          addressed as part of the State Fire Marshall review,  
          certification, and approval of devices and instructions.   
          Because this letter arrived too late to be fully incorporated  
          into this analysis, it is not clear how the author would respond  
          to Sempra's recommended amendments. 


          California Alarm Association 
          California Coalition for Children's Safety and Health 
          California Industrial Hygiene Council
          California Retailers Association 
          California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
          California State Firefighters Association, Inc.
          Carbon Monoxide Safety and Health Association, International  
          Home Depot  
          National Fire Protection Association 
          Safe Kids, USA
          State Association of Electrical Workers 
          Western Center on Law & Poverty 
          None on file 

           Analysis Prepared by  :    Thomas Clark / JUD. / (916) 319-2334