A Call to Alarms

Mortgage and Lending with Guaranteed Rate, Marin County, CA NMLS: 22343

A Call to Alarms


While the title of this post may be a play on words, the subject is no joke.  The villain goes by the moniker "The Silent Killer," and he potentially has access to both your home and mine.  As a California mortgage professional, carbon monoxide poisoning is a real issue for me because if a home is not suitably outfitted with the alarms that detect this threat, we can be virtually certain we are going to have problems during the loan process and when the appraisal comes in.


SB183, the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act, went into effect on July 1, 2011, yet we still come across homes on both the purchase and refinance side that lack CO detectors.  No matter how often we remind listing agents to assure their homes are adequately equipped, we still get reports back that indicate their absence.  Some time ago, I even convinced our appraisal management company (AMC) to change the language of the appraisal order e-mail to include, prominently in bold red font, that carbon monoxide detectors must be installed prior to inspection.  


But I write this post not because I wish to chastise the oversights of Realtors and homeowners.  For me, the paradigm on this matter has shifted.  I used to see just the nuisance component of SB183 ---- appraisal reinspections, additional costs and process delays.  I used to view this as just another fabricated regulation, another law, another hindrance.  But now, it's personal and I view it as a call to arms.  If my clients are living, or going to live, in any dwelling, they must protect against this threat.  I can be a foot soldier in the war and can take up arms as well.  Here is my ammunition, courtesy of the Novato Fire Prevention District:


About CO Alarms

  • CO alarms should be installed outside each sleeping area.  Install alarms on every level of the home.  
  • Follow the instructions on the package to properly install the CO alarm.
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month.
  • Know the sound the CO alarm makes and learn to distinguish this from smoke alarms and/or the sound these detectors make when the battery is low.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, you MUST get fresh air.  Do not re-enter the premises until cleared by emergency personnel.


How to Prevent CO Poisoning

  • When warming a vehicle, move it out of the garage.  Do not run a fueled engine indoors, even if garage doors are open.
  • Clear all debris from dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace vents.
  • Generators should be used outdoors.
  • Gas and charcoal grills can produce CO.  Only use them outside.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected by a professional every year before cold weather sets in.
  • Open the damper when using a fireplace.
  • Never use your oven or stove to heat your home.


Signs and Symptoms of CO Poisoning

  • Most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.
  • High levels of CO inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death.
  • People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.


As real estate professionals, CO poisoning is an enemy we can defeat together, for the benefit of our clients and ourselves.  Instead of viewing the installation of detectors as a huge pain, let's change our stance and view its fix as an inexpensive, simple and immutable fact of real property transactions in California. 


Stay safe out there,



Rob Spinosa
Mortgage Loan Originator
NMLS: 22343 CalBRE: 01297944
Cell: 415-367-5959 Fax: 415-366-1590
rspinosa@rpm-mtg.com www.rpm-mtg.com/rspinosa 
1058 Redwood Highway, Frontage Road, Mill Valley, CA 94941


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RPM Mortgage, Inc. – NMLS#9472 – Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the Residential Mortgage Lending Act. Equal Housing Opportunity.





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Marilyn O'Donoghue
Long & Foster Avalon - Avalon, NJ

Great article.  I, too, am surprised my town requires smoke detectors but not CO detectors.  I always encourage my sellers to install prior to inspections.

Jan 18, 2015 09:34 PM #27
Robert Smith
Preview Properties, PC - http://www.RealEstateMich.com - Brighton, MI
SRES, Search for Homes Brighton-Howell-SE Michigan

CO detectors used to be quite pricey, but that's not the case anymore.  You can replace a smoke detector with a combo smoke/CO unit pretty affordably.  And there's always the option of buying a stand alone CO detector, too.  Great blog post!

Jan 18, 2015 09:52 PM #28
Richard Robibero, e-Pro, ABR, SRS
Panorama R.E. Limited - Toronto, ON
Selling Your Home as if it were My Own!

Thanks for this Rob Spinosa . Was just going to say the same thing as RObert above. These detectors are now inexpensive compared to the life saving duties they perform. Mandatory or not your home should be equipped with them.

Jan 18, 2015 10:22 PM #29
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Three people made the newspaper when they fell asleep with a propane heater

Jan 18, 2015 10:29 PM #30
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty ZionRealtyAZ.com

Most homes are so new here in my market that very rarely do I ever come across a home that does not have a carbon monoxide detector in it. Builders started installing them many years ago. 

Jan 18, 2015 10:55 PM #31
Brian Schulman
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552

With winter here, a timely warning.  I like your title, too!

Jan 18, 2015 11:39 PM #32
Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles real estate concierge services

I read something the other day about a family dying because of carbon monoxide poisoning. Here carbon monoxide detectors have to be installed prior to closing, as do smoke detectors. It would certainly be good practice for sellers to take care of this before it becomes an issue, because lenders are going to send the appraisers back out to check  that everything is installed.  

Jan 19, 2015 04:45 AM #33
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Absolutely important post related to acute CO poisoning.  Everyone should be aware however that few of these detectors do anything to protect against chronic low levels of CO.  In fact, as part of their listing, they are not allowed to alarm at low levels.  There are detectors that can do this however.

Jan 19, 2015 06:22 AM #34
Lynn B. Friedman CRS Atlanta GA 404-939-2727
Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty - Buckhead - Midtown - Westside ... Love our City - Love our Clients! - Atlanta, GA
Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers

Rob Spinosa 
Yes, some extra regulations are actually veery valuable.
Thanks for the thorough report.
Have a happy day -

Jan 19, 2015 06:37 AM #35
Janis Borgueta
Key Properties of the Hudson Valley - Newburgh, NY
LIC RE Salesperson

Rob Spinosa this information is super important. Seems that many don't pay attention to the details of safety! Thanks for sharing.

Jan 19, 2015 08:24 AM #36
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Very informative post with very important information. Thanks for this.

Jan 19, 2015 08:36 AM #37
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

I've got one ... but what I still need to do is get my new smoke detector installed.  It is not going to do me any good in the box.  I need a honey-doer!

Jan 19, 2015 10:33 AM #38
Doyle Davison
Hawaiian Beaches Hawaii - 714-968-6767 - Huntington Beach, CA
30 years as your Concierge services listing broker

This has got to be one of the most important items besides a smoke detector and fire extinguisher. At least with fire you smell smoke and gas they put that obnoxious sulfur smell in it.

Jan 19, 2015 10:38 AM #39
Wayne Johnson
Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS® - San Antonio, TX
San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale

Rob-CO detection equipment is not a requirement in our area, but it sure makes sense to have them.

Jan 19, 2015 09:52 PM #40
Christine Smith
Buyers Brokers Only LLC - www.BuyersBrokersOnly.com - Canton, MA
Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA

It is mandatory in Massachusetts to have a carbon monoxide detector.  Closings cannot take place without a certificate from the local fire department stating that the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working, conform to regulations and installed in the proper locations. The Seller is typically responsible for providing that.

Jan 19, 2015 10:42 PM #41
Paula McDonald, Ph.D.
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

What a great reminder for all.  So tragic when a death from this happens that could have been avoided. 

Jan 20, 2015 02:14 AM #42
Kevin Mackessy
Blue Olive Properties, LLC - Highlands Ranch, CO
Dedicated. Qualified. Local.

I always recommend getting the 10 year guaranteed hardwired CO/smoke detector combo unit.  That way you never mess with batteries and you're protected for a long time. 

Jan 20, 2015 02:58 AM #43
S. Leanne Paynter ☼ Broward County, FL
United Realty Group, Inc. - Davie, FL
Davie, Plantation, Cooper City & Weston Specialist

Some of the "prevention" steps seem so logical, yet we still hear about people who do them.  What are they thinking?

Jan 20, 2015 10:10 AM #44
Connie Harvey
Pilkerton Realtors - Brentwood, TN
Realtor - Nashville TN Real Estate

Rob, though I think CO detectors are incredibly important too, I had never heard of a law requiring them for a mortgage. Very interesting!

Jan 20, 2015 11:39 PM #45
Anna Banana Kruchten CRS CRB, Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000 - Phoenix, AZ

Rob that must be a law in your state but it's not here in AZ.  Homes with gas typically will have a CO alarm butolder homes with out gas do not. Very good reminder for everyone.

Jan 22, 2015 07:51 AM #46
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Rob Spinosa

SVP of Mortgage Lending, Marin County
Can I Get a Jumbo Loan with 10% Down?

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