Reuben's Home Inspection Blog


Is Legal Trouble Worse Than Death?


I might start red-tagging furnaces.  If Centerpoint Energy can do it, why can’t I?  People take these red tags very seriously.

The gas company will red-tag a furnace if they deem it unsafe for use – this could be because of a high carbon monoxide reading in the flue gas, backdrafting, a cracked heat exchanger, or many other things.  Do you know what happens after a furnace gets red-tagged?


The gas company won’t lock the gas off at the meter, they won’t notify the gas gods, and no demerits are handed out.

So what’s the point of the gas company ‘red-tagging’ a furnace?  Their tags look official, and people make the assumption that they’ll get in some type of legal trouble if they turn on a furnace that has been red tagged.  The thought of legal trouble seems to be a much bigger motivator than the possibility of injury or death, by say, carbon monoxide poisoning.

As a perfect example, I once did a Saint Paul Truth in Housing evaluation for a family that was selling their house.  It was a cold January day, the entire family was home during the middle of the day, and they had the oven running with the door wide open.  They were using the oven to heat their house. I told them that this was a serious safety hazard, and I distinctly remember the mother telling me with a chuckle:

“We appreciate your concern, hon, but we ain’t goin' anywhere.”

The woman obviously cared about following the law because she hired me to perform the city inspection, but she didn’t have much concern for her families’ safety.  That would have been a great time to pull out a red tag.

I have to get some.


Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections


Comment balloon 10 commentsReuben Saltzman • June 22 2010 06:17AM


Reuben, if a red tag can save a life I sat just do it.

Posted by Tom Priester, Paradise Sharks (Paradise Sharks ) almost 9 years ago

Seems like the gas companies would be somewhat liable if they ignored a red tagged furnace. Maybe the person red tagging should contact the gas company directly. Sometimes we need to protect people from themselves.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) almost 9 years ago

RED TAGGING is very serious and I am surprised that more people are not killed each year from the unsafe use of ovens, furnaces and heaters!

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) almost 9 years ago

I have always found it strange how people will offhandedly dismiss safety issues while the remote threat of legal trouble will send them into almost immediate action.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Reuben, great post as usual----people's priorities always make for an interesting study.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Tom - I think I will.

Randy -it's usually the gas company that red-tags furnaces.  If I were to contact them about a problem, they would just do the same thing.

Wallace - I'm sure it happens way more than it should.

James - I don't get it either. Maybe these people just have a much higher tolerance for risk.

Charles - thanks.  I'm sure some of my priorities would make for an interesting study too.  Ever notice how there are so many clients that could care less about missing handrails and trip hazards, but they go in to hysterics over stuff like radon?  

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 9 years ago

Would you have put the red tag on the oven or the mother?  JK, no need to answer.  I was on a job site, and I told a work to put on his safety glasses.  He response was "my eyesight is not that important to me."  I was not really sure how to respond except to tell him it is required to work on the job site and to leave if he does not wear them. 

People who do not look out for their own safety are the first to exclaim "why me?' when something happens.


Posted by Aaron Silverman, Improving Real Estate Experience through Education (, Bluewater Property Management, LLC and Lowcountry Turnkey Properties, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Aaron - for your story about he worker, I probably would have said "yeah, well, our lawyers care."

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 9 years ago

HA!  I often go into a basement and see a red tag on the furnace only to read it and see that the date is 13 years old!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Now that's really bad.  That far surpasses 'procrastination'

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 9 years ago