The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s residential wood-burning rule (Rule 4901) has an important caveat that is essential for valley real estate agents to understand. Rule 4901 limits particulate matter emissions from wood-burning fireplaces, wood-burning heaters and outdoor wood-burning devices.

This means that prior to selling a home with any wood-burning fireplace insert or free-standing wood stove, homeowners anywhere in the jurisdiction of the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District must ensure that these devices meet the requirements of Rule 4901. The rule requires that older, dirtier wood stoves and inserts must be removed from a home and destroyed before the home is sold or ownership is transferred. Home sellers must remove and permanently render inoperable any wood-burning heater or fireplace insert that is nonpellet or does not meet EPA July 1990 emission standards. If a stove needs to be removed, it would be best to contact a local chimney sweep or hearth retailer.

Devices that can be left in a home upon sale or transfer include: fireplaces, stoves or inserts manufactured to meet EPA emissions standards, pellet stoves, inserts and devices fueled exclusively by natural gas or propane, and wood-burning heaters that have been rendered permanently inoperable. All new wood stoves and inserts manufactured after July 1, 1990, or sold after July 1, 1992, are required to meet EPA Phase II certification.

To determine if your heater is in compliance, check the owners’ manual or you can check the following link and search by manufacturer and model:

A home seller whose property includes any type of wood-burning stove or insert must submit to the Valley Air District and to the homebuyer a statement of compliance. These forms are available at or at the nearest air district office.

There are no exemptions to this requirement and it applies to all real estate transactions within the Valley Air District. This includes real estate owned by banks or other financial institutions (known as REO properties).

It is illegal to sell or install a non-EPA Phase II stove or insert unless it is a pellet-fueled heater. A home seller who would like to keep an old stove for its decorative value should contact the district for guidance on permanently disabling the device.

For more information, contact the nearest district office (Bakersfield, 661-392-5500; Fresno, 559-230-6000; Modesto, 209-557-6400).

Cassandra Melching is an outreach and communications representative for San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

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