Saturday, 7 December 2013

Carbon Monoxide Detectors: New Law & Better Protection For Tenants

Carbon Monoxide is a silent and deadly killer.  Odourless, colourless, it can kill entire families overnight.  Where does carbon monoxide in homes typically come from?  From fuel burning appliances such as a gas furnace, ovens, or stoves.  It can enter the home from the garage from running vehicles, from blocked chimneys (think nests) or from other appliances due to failure.  See the illustration for more sources.  Given that the gas is silent, colourless, and odourless, it is very dangerous, particularly to people who are sleeping in the home.

Perhaps you are aware, or have heard of deaths in Ontario caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.  Most notorious is the story of Hawkins and Gignac.  Ms. Hawkins was an OPP officer and she and her husband and two children died in an accidental exposure to carbon monoxide in their own home.  This was a normal family, living normally, and tragically, they died.

In response to the tragedy (five years ago) and the risk that accidental carbon monoxide exposure presents to all Ontarians, the Ontario government, along with the unanimous approval of all the opposition parties, has now passed Bill 77,  the Hawkins Gignac Act 2013.  So what does this law require?  In short, it requires that carbon monoxide detectors be installed in residential buildings which includes buildings in which rental units are located.

Given the context of this article in a blog on Ontario Landlord and Tenant Law, I'm trying to make the point to tenants that they have the legal right to demand a carbon monoxide detector and to landlords that they have an obligation to provide tenants with a carbon monoxide detector.  The failure to provide these devices will be a contravention of law and charges and fines can be forthcoming for failure to comply and it will be a basis of liability in a civil context (i.e. you can get sued and be ordered to pay money) if someone is injured as a result of carbon monoxide exposure that would not have happened but for the failure to provide the carbon monoxide detector.

Are the requirements of this law exactly the same as providing a smoke detector in a unit?  The short answer is an unequivocal "no".  The law requires that carbon monoxide detectors be hardwired into the electrical system, that there be no disconnect switch,  and that if one detector is triggered that all of the detectors in premises also go off at the same time.  It appears, from my reading of the law, that buying a carbon monoxide detector from any of the big box stores and plugging it into the wall is NOT going to discharge the obligation imposed under the law.  That being said, does every apartment in a rental complex require the installation of a carbon monoxide detector--hardwired into the electrical system.  It seems that if the rental unit has an appliance that can generate carbon monoxide then the answer is yes.  If the rental unit does not have an appliance that can generate carbon monoxide but it has a storage garage then "yes" as well if the residential unit is adjacent to the "storage garage" (query what "adjacent" means).  "Storage garage" is a defined term under the Building Code Act and it is what we commonly understand to be a residential garage in which cars can be stored and in which no repair or maintenance of vehicles is undertaken and in which no provision is made for that capability.

Whether or not the law requires a carbon monoxide detector to be installed in the context of your home or your apartment building, will require a careful consideration of the lay out of the building, the lay out of the rental units, and a consideration of the sources of carbon monoxide as well as the appliances that can generate the gas.

Perhaps you've click on the link to the legislation above to look for the RULES & SPECIFICS on where, how, and when a carbon monoxide detector needs to be installed.  Of course you're disappointed because the law simply says the Fire Protection and Prevention Act is amended and now the power to regulate carbon monoxide exists and of course there is a new Carbon Monoxide Awareness week.

I haven't quite figured out the logic of it, but the regulation that the Fire Protection and Prevention Act contemplates for the requirement of Carbon Monoxide detectors does not seem to be promulgated under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act.  Instead, those regulations seem to be under the Ontario Building Code, which in some was I don't understand must make sense.

The Rules for the installation, requirement for, location, and method of installation are set out in a Regulation.  That regulation appears to be Regulation 332/12 to the Ontario Building Code and it is not in force until January 1, 2014.  As I go through the regulation, it deals with carbon monoxide detectors as follows:

6.2.12.  Carbon Monoxide Alarms  Application
   (1)  This Subsection applies to every building that,
    (a)  contains a residential occupancy, and
   (b)  contains a fuel-burning appliance or a storage garage.  Location of Carbon Monoxide Alarms

   (1)  Where a fuel-burning appliance is installed in a suite of residential occupancy, a carbon monoxide alarm shall be installed adjacent to each sleeping area in the suite.
   (2)  Where a fuel-burning appliance is installed in a service room that is not in a suite of residential occupancy, a carbon monoxide alarm shall be installed,
    (a)  adjacent to each sleeping area in every suite of residential occupancy that is adjacent to the service room, and
   (b)  in the service room.
   (3)  Where a storage garage is located in a building containing a residential occupancy, a carbon monoxide alarm shall be installed adjacent to each sleeping area in every suite of residential occupancy that is adjacent to the storage garage.  Installation and Conformance to Standards

   (1)  The carbon monoxide alarms required by Article shall,
    (a)  except as permitted in Sentence (2), be permanently connected to an electrical circuit and shall have no disconnect switch between the overcurrent device and the carbon monoxide alarm,
   (b)  be wired so that its activation will activate all carbon monoxide alarms within the suite, where located within a suite of residential occupancy,
    (c)  be equipped with an alarm that is audible within bedrooms when the intervening doors are closed, where located in a suite of residential occupancy, and
   (d)  conform to,
           (i)  CAN/CSA-6.19, “Residential Carbon Monoxide Alarming Devices”, or
          (ii)  UL 2034, “Single and Multiple Station Carbon Monoxide Alarms”.

   (2)  Where the building is not supplied with electrical power, carbon monoxide alarms are permitted to be battery operated.

There are additional sections that deal with Carbon Monoxide detectors--for example section Repair and Storage Garages, so please don't assume that I have comprehensively dealt with carbon monoxide detection in this Article.  If you're reading this and looking for a more comprehensive review of all things carbon monoxide in the law of Ontario, consider doing a search through the statutes and regulations through the e-law site which you can access from this LINK.


The law requires that buildings that contain fuel burning appliances and/or storage garages are equipped with carbon monoxide detectors that are hard-wired into the buildings electrical systems.  Only buildings without electrical service will, that would otherwise require hard-wired detectors will be permitted battery operated detectors.  The location of carbon monoxide detectors is regulated and how they interact with each other is also regulated.  It seems that the interconnectivity between the detectors (when one goes off they all go off) means that the only practical way of complying with the law in units with many sleeping areas is the installation of hardwired alarm systems or the purchase of sophisticated carbon monoxide detectors that can speak to each other wirelessly.

Michael K. E. Thiele
Ottawa Lawyer


  1. I enjoyed your post. You have shared a good post related to better protection for tenants. Landlord and tenant act Toronto

    1. We all thank you for your educational post.
      We wish more people would assist the general population with their knowledge and expertise .
      One question though, I have heard that multi residential buildings/high rise ones suppose to have Co detectors on top two floors and bottom two floors.
      Is this true?

      Thank you

    2. Hi Michigander: The legislation sets out the specific requirements as to location of the CO2 detectors. If I dare summarize the law, I think it's fair to say that CO2 detectors are important in locations where there is a risk of CO2 poisoning. In areas where there are fuel burning appliances or gas burning vehicles there is a risk of CO2. Hence the requirement for detectors near garages. Detectors near bedrooms is also important as many people die from CO2 poisoning in their sleep. Some sources of CO2 are unexpected and a bit of a surprise---but imagine a chimney that is blocked by a birds nest over the summer and then the furnace exhaust backs up, or the hot water tank exhaust backs up (presuming its a natural gas hot water tank). Where that backed up exhaust goes could be in unexpected parts of the home. Take a look at the diagram in the blog for other sources of CO2. In the end, given how inexpensive the detectors are relative to the heartache that they can prevent be generous with the installation and put them near the required places but also in places where it is possible for CO2 to build up.

      Michael K E Thiele

  2. Michael. Thank you for this post. This information is particularly useful to us and let me tell you why. We rent in the basement unit of a 3-unit house. Our unit contains the gas furnace which broke earlier this year (October?) and was repaired. A few days ago the furnace broke (possibly Sunday) and yesterday (Tuesday) the carbon monoxide detector on the 2nd floor unit of the house went off. The tenants contacted the landlord who sent out an email informing everyone of the issue. At this point I realized that our unit did not have a carbon monoxide detector. I also connected the partner was having symptoms consistent with carbon monoxide poisoning since Sunday!!!! The landlord has since scheduled the furnace to be replaced for tomorrow (Thursday) and says that he will have CO detectors installed in our unit as well as the main floor unit. In the meantime, my partner is still suffering from symptoms of poisoning as they can linger for a few days after exposure. We are lucky and thankful that nothing worse happened. Besides ensuring the landlord follows through on his plans to install a CO detector, is there anything else we should be doing?

    1. Hi Andrea: Thank you for sharing your story. It is easy to see that this could have been far more tragic. I hope of course that your partner is getting medical attention and that any lingering health deficits are properly documented. Of course, lets hope for a full recovery. If you have any concern at all that there may be longer term health effects it may be worthwhile to contact a personal injury lawyer. If that seems the way to go you should do so with relative haste as there are limitation periods within which steps must be taken otherwise an action becomes statute barred.

      You ask if there is "anything else" that you should be doing. Frankly, I don't know, and the best I can say is to ensure that the landlord is following not just the letter of the law but the spirit as well. Are the mechanical systems in the house properly installed? Perhaps have a property standards inspector do an inspection, perhaps even have TSSA (Technical Standards and Safety Authority) inspect the premises to ensure compliance. Given the near tragedy they may very well think an inspection important. There will be things that should be obvious to you (i.e. smoke detectors), but then there will be other things that won't occur to you that perhaps an inspector would catch. For example, you mention a basement apartment, is it a "legal" unit, does it have secondary escape in case of fire, is it properly ventilated, etc.. I don't come close to pretending to know what all the requirements are so the best I can say is to get inspectors in who can spot the issues (example: if you have gas hot water tanks what kind of condition are they in?).

      I'm very pleased for you that the outcome wasn't another death from carbon monoxide. When you read the story about Hawkins and Gignac it is so profoundly sad and disturbing for how preventable the tragedy was and I hope that this new law gets well advertised and that compliance with it is widely adopted.

      Michael K.E. Thiele
      Ottawa Lawyer

  3. Thank you very much for this comprehensive blog on the subject of carbon monoxide detectors. I am seriously considering the purchase of a home with a unit in the lower half of the house. The fire code is not clear about the subject about smoke or carbon monoxide detector installation in preexisting units in houses. This helps a lot.

    My preference is to hard wire the apartment unit for safety and reassurance that it isn't tampered with as I will be living above.

    To make absolutely certain I understand all of the safety requirements (exit requrements, detectors, fire doors etc.) I am going to phone the Ottawa Fire Services.

    Thanks again.


  4. I was just wondering as I live in a town house complex of multiple units and none of us have CO2 detectors. I want to be sure that I am understanding correctly. Is it the responsibility of the landlord to make sure we have these on all floors and hard wired unless they are wireless and can work together on all floors. We have a gas furnace in all units and we all have attached garages right below our living rooms. If so please let me know as we have a hard time getting things done that need done. Thank you

    1. In my opinion the direct answer is "yes". The interesting thing with new laws is that the wording may be a bit ambiguous or different people have different interpretations of what the words mean. I've now heard of some interpretations that stipule hard wired is satisfied with being plugged into a wall (I disagree). I know that in Ottawa shortly after the law came into affect that many of my clients were not getting straight forward answers from the City about the requirements. I haven't followed up since then. I provided links to the legislation for you so you can see what you think it means and what the requirements are. All that being said, I'm fairly confident in saying that where there is a gas burning appliance a CO2 detectors is required. Your gas burning fireplaces are potential source for a lethal gas. There are far to many tragic stories to discount the requirement as being "overkill".

      Check with your municipality, city or town and perhaps even the local fire marshall for enforcement if the landlord won't do it voluntarily.

      Michael K. E. Thiele

    2. Dear Michael Thiele Thank you for your comprehensive overview of this matter of carbon monoxide detection. I notice in your answers to people that you are showing the chemical short form for carbon monoxide as CO2. This is the form for carbon dioxide which is not nearly as dangerous as carbon monoxide. The short form which should be used is CO. You probably know this but you have inadvertently used CO2 in a couple of answers which just might cause some misunderstanding.

      Thanks again,

      Terry Hanes

    3. Terry: So very right you are! Thank you. Mike Thiele

  5. of course any tenant who is worried about this could also purchase a plug in detector and use it in their own unit.

  6. Great blog! Thanks. Hardwired for the CO unit is recommended. After installing a plug-in version at my unit, the tenants unplugged it!
    Not sure why since it was a dedicated plug. I also discovered that even though I check every six months on the smoke detectors - the batteries on these were taken out and not replaced even though spare batteries were supplied. Now we do an inspection at the time the furnace is turned on for the winter on all detectors. We also have the furnace inspected to ensure everything is working correctly. A simple process, post the notice for the tenant and 24 hrs later - you have peace of mind.

  7. Hi
    I live in a detached home. Everything in the home is gas. Two stoves.. two ovens.. furnace.. hot water tank... two gas fireplaces.. gas pool heater. I have asked on numerous occasions for carbon monoxide detectors. The owner of the house says he took them for his own apartment where he lives. I told him that they are necessary by law. We had two gas leaks at the house. I called the gas company because I was feeling nautious and dizzy the entire day. They were the ones who found the two gas leaks and told us we couldn't use the gas dryer anymore because it wasn't even vented. The owner still has not put carbon monoxide detectors in the house. He refuses to have the wood fireplace inspected and I had to get someone to come in to inspect the gas fireplaces myself because he wouldn't do that either. I don't even know if the fire detectors work in the house because they are connected to a monitored alarm system that he admits he is no longer paying for. I don't know what else to do.

    1. Hi: The things you describe, potentially, are a matter of life or death. Functioning smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are required by law. If your landlord won't provide them then provide them yourself. Make a written request for these devices and the inspections necessary to ensure the house is safe. Given that you should have them without having to ask for them, go out to Home Depot or other store tonight--and buy them. There are numerous kinds of detectors. Buy them and install them. Then send the landlord the bill for the devices. When he doesn't pay, you have a choice. You can apply to the Board to have the landlord pay for these devices (part of his obligation to provide premises fit for habitation). The Board may simply authorize you to deduct the cost from the rent. Alternatively, and while it is not strictly authorized under the RTA--you could simply deduct the cost of the devices from the rent. When you are served with a Notice of Termination for Non-payment of rent (i.e. because the rent is short) you write the landlord a letter advising that you deducted the cost of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and enclose a copy of the receipts. He then will choose whether or not to proceed to try and evict you for non-payment of rent. If he does, you end up in front of an adjudicator and argue that the rent is owing but that the landlord owes you for the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Demonstrate to the adjudicator that you asked the landlord to pay and demonstrate that you told the landlord after he served the N4 (Notice of Termination for Non-payment of Rent) that you deducted the cost of these devices from the rent. The Board member may not be "thrilled" with your self help remedy but under the circumstances I think you would "win" the deduction and the Landlord would lose his $170 application fee. If it went against you (which in my experience is unlikely) you would simply be ordered to pay the short fall in rent plus the $170 application fee and you would be allowed to remain in the home (i.e. tenancy not terminated).

      In my view, things like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are not worth arguing over to "get" them installed. These are fundamental safety devices that need to be in place immediately. Especially in this weather you will clearly be using the appliances to heat the home and everything will be sealed right up. You could, of course, call the fire department to complain about the lack of smoke detectors and ask them to come and inspect. They will do that, and they will issue orders to the landlord or alternatively they will bring you detectors to install. There are far too many tragedies involving missing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Don't be one of these statistics.

      Best of luck

      Michael K. E. Thiele

  8. Hi Michael,

    Thank you very much for your expertise in interpreting this law.

    I was wondering if you have any guidance on how to handle a situation where a landlord is renting out a townhouse to a family, but refuses to install Carbon Monoxide detectors. Is this a matter for the LTB? It seems to me that this a more urgent matter than something for them to handle, and that the authorities should be called to ensure immediate compliance. Furthermore, the landlord has multiple units throughout Ontario, and I am concerned and convinced he is neglecting these other properties, whose tenants may not know their rights. Do you have any recommendations? Would claling the fire department be an option?

    Thank you for everything, your blog is very insightful and useful to myself and thousands of others who need help.


    1. Hi: Yes, call the Fire Marshall's Office to see if they will come out to investigate and make an Order. They may very well come out and provide the detector to you and install it. Alternatively, feel free to go to any store to buy and install a Carbon Monoxide detector---first confirm the request for the detector from the landlord in writing and confirm his refusal to provide it thereafter. Then go purchase and install it (or them---as the number may vary depending on the size and configuration of your unit). To recoup the cost you can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board on a T6/T2 application (which is how the Board would want you to proceed). If you are keen to be a little bit more aggressive, simply deduct the cost from the next rent payment with a note to the landlord and a copy of the receipt for the detector. If the Landlord serves you with a Notice of Termination for Non-Payment of Rent (Form N4) don't worry, force the landlord to pay the $170 application fee and go to the hearing. You should win that application without difficulty.

      Take a look at this link for the installation schedule as set out under the legislation (you will need to cut and paste the link):

      Good Luck

      Michael K. E. Thiele

  9. According to the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, c. 4 ( ):

    Div. B, A carbon monoxide alarm shall
    (a) be permanently connected to an electrical circuit with no disconnect switch between the overcurrent device and the carbon monoxide alarm,
    (b) be battery-operated, or
    (c) be plugged into an electrical receptacle.

  10. My daughter is currently renting a townhome. Years ago these townhomes were electric heat and were converted over to gas furnaces. Most of the baseboard heaters were left but they are now over 25 years old.
    Last winter the furnace broke down and is non-repairable. To our knowledge this furnace was never maintained. Our landlord has blamed us for the furnace breaking down as we own a dog. He claims it is from the amount of dog hair etc. Prior to us renting this house, the previous tenants also owned animals. As such, he is refusing to replace the furnace and we are now being forced to us electric heat again. With the increase to hydro rates etc. this is becoming unaffordable. Also, the baseboard heater in the living room was removed and the one in the kitchen does not work. Therefore, there is no heat on our main floor and we are forced to use space heaters which I worry about the safety with children in the house. There are also no working heaters in the basement. This could cause pipes to freeze in the winter time. The landlord is aware of this issue and said he would come and put a heater in the basement but he never showed.
    What can we do??? We have even offered to put a rent to own furnace in at our expense but he said no, and that the furnace would be put in once we moved.
    Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. I worry that I won't be able to pay the high hydro bills again this winter (last year one exceeded $900).

    1. Hi: I highly recommend that you call the Property Standards Department of your city/town/township. They very likely have a by-law that will require your landlord to repair or replace the furnace. Start there and see if you get satisfaction. If not, your next step is to consider an application to the Landlord and Tenant Board. Note that simply having a dog will not cause a furnace to break down. Regular maintenance and changing of the filters is important regardless of whether the occupants have pets or not. When there are shedding animals in the house the solution is to change the filters more often.

      Good luck

      Michael K. E. Thiele

  11. We are currently renting the main floor of a house with a basement apartment. I recently saw a specialist for my asthma because it has become more and more severe since living here and have had to make several trips to the emergency room because of it. The specialist recommended I should move to a house with absolutely no carpet at soon as possible. We found somewhere to move but it is available in 45 days and we cannot give a full 60 days notice to the landlord. We thought the medical advice would allow to break the lease 15 days early, but he is only going to let us break the lease if we pay an extra half months rent to make up for the 15 days short our notice is. We have lived here for two years and they have never installed a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector despite having asked several times. Is this a reason that we could possibly break the lease and leave without the full 60 days notice?

    Thank you for help.

    1. Hi Fiona: The lack of a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector is certainly illegal. You could call in the FIremarshall's office for an inspection or the City if they handle that in your city. An order would certainly be made and the fire department is likely to even install a smoke detector on a temporary basis. Further, as a fire safety and a detection device for lethal gas you could certainly install one and have the full cost reimbursed without question. However, all of that being said, in my view this is not enough to have the landlord and tenant board terminate your tenancy. The solution is short of termination which is installing a smoke and carbon monoxide detector.

      That being said, you could give the Notice of Termination for the date that your new place is ready. You could just move and not pay the amount demanded by the Landlord. Your Notice of Termination, in Form N9--even with an invalid date would get a date extended to the next valid legal date by the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act. Either before or after you move you could file an application with the Landlord and Tenant Board in Form T2 asking to terminate the tenancy for the date you selected based on the failure to provide a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector and take the position that the failure to provide these devices resulted in the unit being unfit for habitation. The Landlord has a legal obligation to provide a unit that is fit for habitation and refusing to provide such important devices is a serious breach of his obligations. To give the argument a chance it would be great to evidence demonstrating that the landlord was explicitly asked for these devices and that the landlord outright refused to provide them or told you to do it yourself--anything to proves awareness that these devices were lacking and a refusal to install. While I think the Board Order will come up short on termination, you might win if the facts are egregious and the landlord behaves ignorantly at the hearing. If your "real" reason for moving comes to light it takes the umph out of your argument and I think turns the attention to what could have been done to solve this problem. The further you go down this road the less likely I think it is that the Board would terminate your tenancy.

      That being said, I think a reasonable strategy at this point is to simply wait and pay up to the date you leave. Having given your notice of termination the landlord has a duty to try to re-rent that starts right now. That means advertising and showing the unit to new prospective tenants (yes, while you are in possession now). If he successfully re-rents the unit for when you vacate then, at law, he will not be entitled to any further payment from you. Hence, it is in your interests to help him find a new tenant right away. Inquire with him what he is doing (all in emails), and get details from him about what you can do to assist. The failure to mitigate (i.e. try to re-rent) disentitles him to damages (i.e. rent) from you.

      Good luck

      Michael K. E. Thiele

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Any answers provided are intended to reflect the Law of Ontario, Canada. The answers are not legal advice and no one should rely on the answers provided as legal advice. The answers are intended to be general information about Ontario Law and are the personal view of the author based on the limited facts provided to the author. The answers may not be legally accurate and may indeed be contrary to the law of Ontario. Answers and conclusions drawn may have been different if facts had been shared that have not been disclosed in the comment/question. This blog is intended to assist people in learning about Ontario Landlord and Tenant Law. However, if you have actual legal problems this blog should under no circumstances replace proper legal advice obtained by retaining a lawyer or licensed paralegal to advise you. Nothing in this blog, comments submitted or answers provided, gives rise to a solicitor and client relationship. Comments are published as submitted and commenters should be aware that if they identify themselves in a comment that their identity will become public upon the comment being published. Comments that have been published may be deleted upon request to the author.

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About Michael Thiele

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Ottawa lawyer and partner at Quinn Thiele Mineault Grodzki LLP.  Graduate of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.  Called to the bar in Ontario in 1997.  Undergraduate degree at Colby College, Waterville Maine, U.S.A.