Are carbon monoxide detectors required by FHA?

As you likely know, carbon monoxide detectors are now required in California for all single family dwellings as of July 1, 2011 (apartments by January 1, 2013). Any dwelling with a gas heater or appliance, fireplace or attached garage must install a carbon monoxide alarm (First Alert). Being that these detectors are now state law due to health and safety reasons, FHA appraisers should be calling for the installation of a carbon monoxide detector if it is missing according to the the HUD Santa Ana Homeownership Center. In short, if you’re getting an FHA loan, make sure a carbon monoxide detector is properly installed.  

Owners of California dwelling units, especially rentals, that have (i) a fossil fuel-burning heater, appliance or fireplace (for example, a gas stove or water heater) or (ii) an attached garage, need to be aware of a new law passed in 2010 regarding carbon monoxide devices.  Under newly-enacted sections 17926, 17926.1, and 17926.2 of the Health & Safety Code (part of Senate Bill No. 183), owners of all such properties (excepting properties that are, generally-speaking, owned by or leased to the government) must install carbon monoxide alarms by the following deadlines:  (1) July 1, 2011, as to single-family dwellings, or (2) January 1, 2013, as to all other dwellings. (from ThoItsLaw blog)

If you wish do to further reading, check out an overview of the California CO law requirements, search the California State Fire Marshall website for approved detectors, or the Home Safety Council website for background information. Thanks to Cynthia Sulamo, an appraiser friend, for the Home Safety Council link and post idea.

My Carbon Monoxide Alarm: On a personal note, I installed a carbon monoxide detector last week in my house and when I put in the battery and heard a testing of the alarm, let me tell you there will be no mistaking a CO issue. It says very loudly and repeatedly “CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTED” or something to that effect. I don’t want this alarm to ever go off again for safety reasons and also noise-level. I sure am thankful to speak english too since the alarm warning spoke in english only.  🙂

If you have any questions, or real estate appraisal or property tax appeal needs in the Greater Sacramento Region, contact Lundquist Appraisal by phone 916-595-3735, email, Facebook or subscribe to posts by email.


  1. says

    Good for California for requiring carbon monoxide detectors. I have not seen many in Georgia. Does the detector have to be wired into the house or can you just install one that plugs into an electrical outlet?

    • says

      There are detectors that plug in to an electrical outlet and also detectors that simply require a battery. There are also dual detectors that have both smoke and CO.

  2. Kyle says

    It’s not the appraisers responsibility to check for CO detectors, and no where in the law claims such, so why are you claiming this? and who ever you talked to at FHA was misguided according to 4150.2 section 3-5 as follows:

    Local municipalities design local housing code standards;
    therefore, enforcement of such housing standards rests with the
    local authority. HUD does not have the authority or the
    responsibility for enforcing local housing codes…

    • says

      Hi Kyle. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your snippet of 4150.2 also. I have frequently been told from Santa Ana HOC that carbon monoxide detectors are required. This is not a local issue because it is state law in California as of July 2011. If you are located in a different state, this issue may not be the same in your area. If you are in California, have you ever called HUD to ask them about this? I have been told repeatedly that CO detectors are required directly from HUD and from many other local appraisers who have also contacted them. Moreover, I am finding my FHA lender clients asking me to verify if there are carbon monoxide detectors 100% of the time. I have quite a few conventional clients who are asking the same because this is California state law.

  3. Kyle says

    I’m in Washington State.
    The exact response I received a while back from Santa Ana HOC was that they were “requiring whatever local code required”. Which is contrary to that snippet I previously pasted for you, which leads me to believe the rep didn’t know what he was talking about.

    Being from WA I’m not 100% sure I navigated your states’ local code correctly, however I think I found the information here:

    Upon review of this document, I don’t believe “appraiser” was mentioned a single time (correct me if I’m wrong).

    Thus, unless it is a client specific requirement that has expanded the scope of work for that specific appraisal assignment (I’ve received these requests as well, I get what you are saying), nothing within the state/local code specifically identifies the appraiser as the medium for verification. I am of the opinion that it is not the appraisers responsibility or liability to research the presence of CO detectors within a dwelling.

    The WA state RCW is the same, it fails to state that it is the appraiser whom must take on this extra liability.

    I’m sure you are familiar with the term “scope creep”, your clients (and some mine as well), are requesting additional information and placing additional liability on our shoulders and without additional compensation [usually].

    According to my research, the odds of winning the WA State Lotto Jackpot were a mere 4x times greater than dying of CO poisoning.
    Don’t get me wrong, I feel these are a necessary amenity because even 1 unnecessary death is 1 too many, however in the grand scheme of things, in addition to the US becoming a “nanny state” the Chinese CO Detector factory [along with the politicians most likely] certainly got their pockets lined on this didn’t they?

    My Solution: None Required, people need to read and understand the law as it was written, it is the sellers or the sellers agents’ responsibility to ensure CO detectors are installed in the dwelling. Failure? Pursue them, not the appraiser.

    PS.. my favorite is when I arrive at the dwelling to find the CO detectors on the kitchen counter, still in the box.. haha.. 🙂

    Anyway.. thanks for your response, sorry to rehash this, it looks like it was an old post I brought back to life.
    Take Care. KR.

    • says

      Thanks Kyle. No worries at all. I always appreciate conversation – whether a post is older or not. These posts get quite a few hits, so it’s all good. The comments are sometimes some of the best places where exchange takes place anyway. Good info.

      I hear what you are saying, but being that it is California State law and FHA has said they are required repeatedly, that’s what I’m sticking to. It is similar with water heater straps. They are required by local code, so that is something FHA requires also. I believe both would fall under the category of “safety”.

      Regarding liability, I understand all about increased liability for lender work, but what are you worried about? If you disclose the location of the CO detectors and state they were not tested, it would theoretically seem like it wasn’t a big-ticket liability item. Moreover, I have had countless fees added to simply drive to a property again to verify there is a CO detector installed. I never call for frivolous inspections, but only what guidelines or clients demand. I will say after a while these fees really add up and make managing the small liability much more worth it.

  4. Sterling says

    Hi Ryan, Kyle is right. Appraisers are NOT code inspectors. You smug green tree huggers need to get a life! If the borrower wants to obey the law it is their own flippin business!

    • says

      Thanks Sterling. Appraisers are simply stating what is there and what is not there. Obviously it is a very trivial value issue to be missing a detector, so on one hand it doesn’t make sense for appraisers to check. Yet appraisers check things like this because they are requirements in California. Moreover, the lending community right now in my area wants appraisers to verify there is a CO detector and often times smoke detectors too. California state law requires both to be present in one degree or another, so lenders are increasingly adamant about this issue. It’s not about hugging trees from the appraisal perspective or trying to be the code police, but simply being the eyes for a client that requires these items. This is really only an issue for lender appraisals – not private appraisals for divorce, estate planning, tax issues, etc… I never require a CO detector to be present for my private appraisal work. I will say you are definitely right though that appraisers are not the police. On a different but somewhat related note, it is not my job to know whether someone can legally grow pot or not at their house. I am not code enforcement or the police. I am there to value the property, which is why I do not ask for a license when I see marijuana growing. I only want to know if there is any impact to the property value (hopefully no electrical issues, moisture damage, etc…). It’s not my business to verify legality. Yet in the case of carbon monoxide detectors, it becomes my business for lender work because lenders are asking appraisers to verify. It may prove difficult to obtain financing these days without a CO detector present. That’s just how the game is working right now. Any thoughts?


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