Carbon monoxide poisoning is known as the silent killer. That is because carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless and colorless gas that can only be detected by a carbon monoxide detector. More and more homes are installing these detectors as a way to monitor exposure to the gas and determine whether or not there is a presence of an unsafe level of carbon monoxide within the home.
A Landlord's Liability
As for a renter and their rights when they suspect that they may be the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning, the landlord has responsibility to the extent that the source of the carbon monoxide poisoning came from sources under which the landlord controlled. For example if the landlord has installed in the home a heating source or appliance that is a known source of carbon monoxide gas then certainly the landlord bears for responsibility of any exposure that their tenants. The courts will apply a standard of what the landlord knew or should have known regarding the operation of the equipment and its potential to cause harm.
A Renter's Responsibility
If the object causing the carbon monoxide poisoning is that which the tenant brought into the home, the liability shifts from the landlord to the renter. This is because the landlord is held to a liability standard specific to the items under his or her control that they should be maintaining for the benefit of the tenant while the tenant is responsible for those items or alterations that they make to the living area.
In determining what level of recourse a tenant has and what their liability and responsibility is relative to a case of carbon monoxide poisoning, the lease agreement may provide some clarity for both parties. In the lease the items of responsibility that are clearly vested with the landlord should be clearly spelled out while those areas of responsibility and liability for the tenant should also be laid out.
If the lease is unclear or does not specify liabilities as it relates to issues such as carbon monoxide poisoning, it may be up to the local court to exert jurisdictional control and apply the standards applied to similar cases on the topic. This may be a long and drawn out process and in the case of a tenant who is suffering from the ill effects of carbon monoxide exposure, such a process will play more in the favor of the landlord over the tenant.
Taking Action With Carbon Monoxide
If as a tenant you suspect that the home that you are living in is exposed to carbon monoxide gas, you should vacate the property immediately and have a representative from your community's building inspector's office come in to determine the extent of exposure. If it can be determined that the source of the carbon monoxide comes from an item that the landlord controls, you should be able to redress either directly or through the courts.