HUD to Enforce Carbon Monoxide Protections in HUD Projects

On January 31, 2022, HUD issued Notice H-2022-01, clarifying federal requirements for carbon monoxide (CO) alarms and detectors. CO is a byproduct of fuel-fired combustion appliances such as furnaces and water heaters. If these appliances are not properly vented, the undetectable gas can be deadly.

There have been at least 11 deaths in HUD-assisted housing from CO poisoning since 2003 and HUD has been under increasing pressure to require CO alarms and detectors in HUD-supported properties. In 2019, HUD issued a notice reminding owners of their legal obligation to install working CO detectors in those jurisdictions where such devices are required. However, in areas where CO detectors are not required, HUD only “encouraged” the installation of the devices – it was not a requirement.

This new HUD notice implements the requirements included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which requires sites to meet certain requirements within two years of the law’s enactment, which was December 27, 2020. As a result of the law, public housing agencies (PHAs), and site owners that received federal rental assistance must comply with the International Fire Code (IFC) 2018 standards on the installation of CO alarms or detectors by December 27, 2022.

The new requirement applies to all Housing Choice Voucher units and all Public Housing, Project-Based Voucher, Project-Based Rental Assistance, Section 202, and Section 811 properties with fire-fueled or fire-burning appliance or an attached garage.

HUD is requiring that all affected sites have CO detectors installed in all dwelling units. The detectors must meet or exceed the standards of the IFC. The standards are outlined in Chapter 9, Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems, and Chapter 11, Construction Requirements for Existing Buildings of the IFC. It should be noted that if local codes are more stringent than the IFC, the local code must be followed.

The IFC defines CO alarms and detectors as follows:

  • Carbon Monoxide Alarm: A single or multiple station alarm intended to detect CO gas and alert occupants by a distinct audible signal. It incorporates a sensor, control components, and an alarm notification appliance in a single unit.
  • Carbon Monoxide Detector: A device with an integral sensor to detect CO gas and transmit an alarm signal to a connected alarm control unit.

Hard-Wire Requirements

IFC-approved CO alarms must receive their primary power from the building’s permanent wiring without a disconnecting switch other than that required for overcurrent protection, and when the primary power service is interrupted, serviced by a battery.

UL Rating Requirements

CO alarms must meet Underwriters Laboratories UL 2034 standard for sensitivity. Combination CO/smoke alarms are an acceptable alternative to CO alarms but must meet UL 2034 and UL 217 standards for sensitivity.

Installation Locations

  • CO detection must be installed in dwelling units that contain a fuel-burning appliance or fuel-burning fireplace.
  • CO detection must be included in any dwelling units with attached private garages – even if the units do not have fuel-burning appliances or fireplaces.
  • When required to be installed, the detectors must be installed outside each sleeping area and in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom. If a fuel-burning appliance is installed in the bedroom, a CO detector must be installed in the bedroom.

The types of fuel-burning appliances likely to be present include gas/fuel-fired ranges, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers, furnaces, air handlers, boilers, and water heaters.

Detectors are not required in dwelling units that do not have openings between the fuel-burning appliance or underground garage and the dwelling unit. This means that if you have a central heating or hot water system that does not distribute heat via forced air, CO detection is not specifically required in the units.

Paying for the Required Installation

According to the Notice, PHAs operating public housing units may use either operating funds or capital funds for the purchase, installation, and maintenance of CO alarms or detectors.

For the HCV and project-based voucher programs, the property owner or landlord is responsible for the cost of the CO alarms or detectors.

Owners of properties receiving assistance through the project-based rental assistance, Section 202 or 811 programs may use the property’s reserve account, residual receipts, general operating reserves, owner contributions, or secondary financing to fund the purchase, installation, and maintenance of CO alarms and detectors. Such purchases are eligible project expenses. The price for approved detectors (not including the cost of installation) generally runs from $15 to $60 per detector, depending on the make and model.

Owners who are required by this notice to install the alarms or detectors must do so by December 27, 2022. HUD MOR and REAC/INSPIRE inspections after this date will note the absence of required detectors. Now is the time for affected properties to begin pricing and planning for the required installation.