Myles M. Mattenson
5550 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Suite 200
Woodland Hills, California 91367
Telephone (818) 313-9060
Facsimile (818) 313-9260
"Clearing The Air -
Does Your Self-service Laundry Meet Code Requirements
For Both Make-up Air And Combustion Air?"

      Myles M. Mattenson engages in a general civil and trial practice including litigation and transactional services relating to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, franchising, business, purchase and sale of real estate, easements, landlord-tenant, partnership, corporate, insurance bad faith, personal injury, and probate legal matters.

      In providing services to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, Mr. Mattenson has represented equipment distributors, coin laundry and dry cleaning business owners confronted with landlord-tenant issues, lease negotiations, sale documentation including agreements, escrow instructions, and security instruments, as well as fraud or misrepresentation controversies between buyers and sellers of such businesses.

      Mr. Mattenson serves as an Arbitrator for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. He is also past chair of the Law Office Management Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Mattenson received his Bachelor of Science degree (Accounting) in 1964 and his Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola University School of Law in 1967.

      Bi-monthly articles by Mr. Mattenson on legal matters of interest to the business community appear in alternate months in The Journal, a leading coin laundry industry publication of the Coin Laundry Association, and Fabricare, a leading dry cleaning industry publication of the International Fabricare Institute. During the period of May 1995 through September 2002, Mr. Mattenson contributed similar articles to New Era Magazine, a coin laundry and dry cleaning industry publication which ceased publication with the September 2002 issue.

      This website contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's New Era Magazine articles which can be retrieved through a subject or chronological index. The website also contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's Journal and Fabricare articles, which can be retrieved through a chronological index.

      In addition to Mr. Mattenson's trial practice, he has successfully prosecuted and defended appeals on behalf of his clients in various areas of the law. Some of these appellate decisions are contained within his website.


Most coin laundry operators have heard the expression “make-up air.”  A lesser percentage of operators have heard the expression “combustion air.”  Many think these terms refer to the same concept, but they do not!  Do you understand the difference?  And what’s more important, has your coin laundry been designed to provide both adequate make-up air and combustion air?

States generally adopt the International Plumbing and Mechanical Codes or the Uniform Plumbing and Mechanical Codes, or slightly modified versions, to govern construction requirements, and such Codes are in turn adopted by local communities.

The Uniform Mechanical Code, for example, requires that “Fuel-burning equipment [dryers} shall be assured a sufficient supply of combustion air . . . .”  The Uniform Mechanical Code goes on to define the manner in which combustion air, obtained from outside the building, shall be supplied.

Insufficient combustion air will cause gas charges to increase and may also cause dryers to “run cool” or essentially run with insufficient heat to dry the clothes within the time customarily anticipated.

Many operators use the expression “make-up air” when referring to the air necessary to create proper combustion; however, make-up air is in fact an entirely different matter.

Make-up air is required to replenish air exhausted by the ventilation system and the make-up air intake must be located so as to avoid re-circulation of contaminated air within the enclosure in which the dryers are situated, i.e., exhaust ducts should not be directed toward a make-up air intake.

If contaminated air is allowed to remain at ground level, it may not affect adult customers walking about in your coin laundry, but could prove dangerous to small children playing in front of your dryers or repairmen laying at ground level behind your dryers!

These codes also require that venting systems terminate at least three feet above a make-up air inlet located within ten feet, and at least four feet from the property line of adjacent private property.

It is my belief that most coin laundries have not been constructed

with a knowledgeable mechanical engineer, architect or contractor retained to adequately focus on the Code requirements for make-up air and combustion air.

In one notable situation which resulted in litigation prosecuted by my office, a coin laundry operator was required to leave open not only the door to the dryer area, but also the exterior door so that sufficient combustion air would flow to the dryers!

As observed by the California Supreme Court, “a contract to build an entire building is essentially a contract for material and labor, and there is an implied warranty protecting the owner from defective construction.”

In this important Supreme Court of California decision, the court continued:

“In the setting of the marketplace, the builder or seller or new construction - not unlike the manufacturer or merchandiser of personality - makes implied representations, ordinarily indispensable to the sale, that the builder has used reasonable skill and judgment in constructing the building.  On the other hand, the purchaser does not usually possess the knowledge of the builder and is unable to fully examine a completed house and its components without disturbing the finished product.  Further, unlike the purchaser of an older building, he has no opportunity to observe how the building has withstood the passage of time.  Thus, he generally relies on those in a position to know the quality of the work to be sold, and his reliance is surely evident to the construction industry.

Therefore, we conclude buyers and sellers of new construction should be held to what is impliedly represented - that the completed structure was designed and constructed in a reasonably workmanlike manner.” 

If your coin laundry suffers from these issues, you may be entitled to relief from the developer or contractor.  Each state, of course, has enacted statutes of limitation which prohibit pursuing claims after a certain period of time specified in the statute.  A knowledgeable attorney can assist in determining whether you can pursue a claim for any discovered defective construction.

If your coin laundry suffers from violations of the Uniform Building Code or Uniform Mechanical Code, even if the contractor has obtained a Certificate of Occupancy, the developer or contractor may not assert the issuance of the certificate as a defense to defective construction.

Building inspections conducted by Department of Building and Safety representatives are periodically conducted in a negligent or inadequate fashion.  As a consequence, most state legislators have adopted the rule that the public entity providing the inspection is not liable for the failure to conduct a proper inspection.  Courts have thus held contractors liable for damages under such circumstances, notwithstanding the fact that city building inspectors saw the defective condition but made no complaint to the contractor. 

The moral of the story?   The purchase of a coin laundry is a major financial investment.  Consider the retention of a sophisticated licensed contractor or mechanical engineer to review issues of Code compliance.  When buying a residence, purchasers frequently retain home inspectors to assure themselves that the structure as well as plumbing and electrical systems do not require repair.  Should you not take similar action when making a major business acquisition?

[This column is intended to provide general information only  and
is  not intended to provide specific legal advice; if you have  a
specific  question  regarding the  law,  you  should  contact  an
attorney  of your choice.  Suggestions for topics to be discussed
in this column are welcome.]

Reprinted from The Journal
Myles M. Mattenson © 2009