WSAZ INVESTIGATES: Carbon Monoxide Safety in Rentals

By: Brooks Jarosz Email
By: Brooks Jarosz Email

UPDATE 2/1/13 @ 7 p.m.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Leaks were found in the system after we launched a WSAZ Investigation surrounding a new West Virginia law requiring carbon monoxide detectors.

We uncovered hotels violating that law requiring a detection system, but our most recent findings examine the safety of apartments and rental homes. put landlords and renters to the test as NewsChannel 3's Brooks Jarosz went door to door in search of carbon monoxide detectors. It's a device that not only sniffs out the odorless gas, but also acts as a lifeline to prevent a toxic tragedy.

South Charleston Assistant Fire Chief Virgil White helped get a new state law passed requiring detectors in all rental properties with gas. We wanted to know if landlords and renters were in check, and what we found was disturbing.

We found one landlord had given renters detectors, even some extra batteries for backup. However, one woman took the batteries out and unplugged it from the wall.

"It wouldn't quit beeping," the woman said.

White responded, "Well, if it's beeping, there's probably a problem."

Other renters told us they weren't taking any chances with gas running through the building. But our investigation found not all landlords are a vigilant.

"It's in their lease that they have to buy all safety equipment," one landlord said.

"State law says it's up to the landlord to provide smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors," White responded.

"OK, fine, whatever, everybody needs to get one then," the landlord said.

For those landlords who are not in compliance, they're given a copy of the West Virginia state code. They are given 30 days to correct the problem or face a fine. A first offense is $250, and second and third offenses are $700 and $2000. found one renter who didn't wait on his landlord and bought one himself. His landlord could be in trouble if he doesn't get them for the other tenants.

"I'd hate to levy a fine on you for not doing so," White said.

The landlord responded, "Exactly, if you say I've got to do it, I've got to do it."

The law says carbon monoxide detectors are only required in rentals homes with gas. All-electric apartments are exempt.

Once a landlord puts a detector in your home, it's your responsibility to maintain it. called several cities in our area, and many do random inspections to hold your landlords accountable. Charleston inspects properties at least once every two years.

A detector only costs about $30 and could save your life.

Keep clicking on for the latest information.

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A deadly case of carbon monoxide poisoning at a hotel in South Charleston has left a lasting impact, prompting a new law and a WSAZ investigation.

It was one year ago, when a carbon monoxide leak killed a man and made more than a dozen others sick at the Holiday Inn Express along Corridor G. No detectors were in the hotel.

A special task force was created to tackle the problem. It helped craft a law that made those detectors a requirement.

Since January 1, 2013, all hotels, nursing homes and rental properties like apartment buildings have been required to have carbon monoxide detectors or a system. investigated hotels and found not all of them are as safe as they should be. We asked South Charleston's Assistant Fire Chief Virgil White to take us to the Wingate Hotel. That's where about a month ago, there was also a carbon monoxide leak there.

"It could have been very dangerous," Assistant Chief Virgil White said. "There could have been injuries or death."

It was all after a contractor didn't properly seal pipes containing the gas, according to White.

"They just did shoddy work," White said. was not allowed inside the hotel, but found out that a new carbon monoxide detection system potentially saved lived. However, that was not the case when we asked to go inside the Microtel.

We uncovered violations, even though the owner and management team told us they thought they were compliant.

"The safety and welfare of my guests is my job," general manager Rosia Fleck said.

Inside, we found just two detectors like the kind you would find in your home.

"Initially this was all that was required," White said.

The new law in West Virginia requires a carbon monoxide system be hardwired into the electrical system with a battery backup. In South Charleston, it's also required to be tied to the fire alarm system.

"Probably most people believe that everything everyone's taken and done their part but sometimes you don't have everything you need," Flack said.

Microtel was cited and given 30 days to fix and install a detection system. If not, the owner could face a fine of $250.

"We'll come back, reinspect and see if it's been done," White said. "If not we start the process of code violations."

There's really not a lot you can do before you check in to find out if a carbon monoxide system is in place; that's up to the inspectors. found three of the four hotels in South Charleston have the required system. We checked in Charleston where annual inspections are done. The fire department tells the majority, if not all of them are complaint.

We are checking other cities like Nitro, St. Albans, Hurricane and Huntington and we will update you on what they're doing.

Rental properties will be the target of our next investigation airing Friday at 6 p.m. on WSAZ. We found not all landlords are vigilant about carbon monoxide detectors.

Keep clicking for the latest information on this investigation.

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