Do You Need Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors to Sell a Home?

smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Everybody and their uncle knows you need smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to sell a home in the Sacramento region . . . or . . . do you? First place to look, of course, is the California Residential Purchase Agreement. Paragraph 7 B1 lets the preparer of the contract check a box as to which party will pay for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Agents who are on the ball will specify the buyer will pay for those items when the home is sold AS IS, but not every agent is on the ball.

Now, state and local laws require a carbon monoxide detector be installed on every level of the home. Some appraisers count every level, even a one-step-down family room as an extra level. They might note basements as an extra level. The danged things are only $20 a piece, and they don’t have to be wired into anything, just plugged in. But what happens if you don’t install carbon monoxide detectors? Will firefighters ax down your door? Will the CO cops break into your home dressed in haz-mat suits to arrest you?

What happens is the buyer’s appraiser won’t release the appraisal report and /or the lender will call for carbon monoxide detectors to be installed before the loan will fund. Or, the way I explain it to sellers: shit rolls down hill. The appraiser will look for the carbon monoxide detector immediately upon entering the home. If they don’t see it, they will often leave and charge the buyer for a return visit. The buyer will then complain to their agent. Their agent will then call me to complain. See where this crap rolls?

So do I naturally call the seller and complain? Are you joking me?

Because I’ve already explained it upfront and if a seller chooses not to install a carbon monoxide detector, I am not the CO police, either. Hey, I ask you. Whose fault is it the buyer doesn’t have cash and needs to get a loan? Is it the seller’s fault? As solely a listing agent, I realize agents who represent both parties do not share this attitude, and, in fact, find it shocking, from their own biased point of view.

Our state and local laws require a smoke detector in every sleeping area; however, an appraiser’s definition of a sleeping area might be different than yours or mine. Smoke detectors are also required in every hallway and on every level. If the smoke detector features a removable battery, the unit must contain a non-removable sealed battery good for 10 years. Which excludes every smoke detector in my house, now that I think about it.

Sometimes, on my AS IS listings in Sacramento I include a clause in the listing agent’s AVID that states the buyer is responsible for installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. It is not really legal because buyers must sign receipt of that document and may not agree, but I stick it in there anyway. When there is no loan, then it becomes a matter of whose responsibility is it to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (sellers), who will pay for it (buyers or sellers) and, most importantly, who will enforce it.

And I think you know the answer to that last one.

An additional seller consideration, though, is a signature on the Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS) does state the seller promises the smoke detectors are installed in accordance with the law.

This matter should be discussed by the listing agent with the buyer’s agent beforehand, just to avoid misunderstandings. However, most buyer’s agents are trained to look for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when they first show the home and make notes in case the buyer decides to make an offer. If agents aren’t providing this service for their buyers, they should.

Elizabeth Weintraub

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