Fire is always a risk, but it’s especially top of mind now given all the wildfires in the western US.
There are things landlords can do to prevent fires and reduce their likelihood, and there are things landlords can explain to their tenants to keep them safe. Fire prevention is yet another reason to maintain a good relationship with their tenants because it encourages cooperation.
Remember, your investment is their home; they don’t want it to burn down either!
What Can Landlords Do to Prevent Fire?
These are things landlords can take care of themselves to help prevent fires and reduce potential fire damage.
1. Obey Local Fire Codes
Following local fire codes and ordinances will help you avoid fines, keep your tenants safe, and likely keep you from violating terms of your insurance.
2. Establish House Rules
Make rules of your own that tenants are expected to follow. Write the rules out and distribute them to your tenants when you give them their lease and via email. Explain the rules to your tenants in person since you shouldn’t assume they’ll read them. If there are children in the household, make sure they are present, and learn these lessons.
Remind your tenants of common causes of fires:
- Heating equipment
- Electrical Fires
3. Conduct Regular Fire Safety Checks
Checking smoke and C02 detectors can be a part of your inspection. This is also an excellent opportunity to scope out the apartment in general.
4. Provide Fire Extinguishers
Put fire extinguishers in every kitchen and make sure your tenants know how to use them. Not every fire extinguisher works in the same way!
5. Consider a Fire Blanket
Fire blankets are made out of fire retardant material and are placed over fires to smother them. They can be more useful for those who aren't experienced using fire extinguishers. They should not, however, be used to extinguish an oil/fat fire (like one caused by a deep-fryer) since they may end up covered in burning oil.
6. Consider a Smoking Ban
You have the right to prohibit smoking inside or outside your property. If you choose to do so, put it in your lease and inform your tenant verbally. If the stipulation is not in your lease agreement, it cannot be enforced.
7. Grilling Rules
You have the right to prohibit grilling. Like a smoking ban, the ban must be in the lease agreement. If you choose not to disallow grilling, then explain grilling best practices to your tenants:
- Don’t grill too close to home.
- Don’t grill on balconies.
- Don’t leave grills unattended.
- Make sure grills are properly turned off after use.
8. Post an Escape Plan
Your escape plan should be clearly explained, posted, and include emergency numbers and contact information.
9. Require Tenants Carry Insurance
Renters insurance only costs a couple hundred dollars a year, but they can help policyholders cover the cost of personal items in the event of a fire, theft, natural disasters, etc.
10. Encourage Tenants to Report Issues
A tenant isn’t guaranteed to report an issue, which can be dangerous if it’s a fire hazard, water leak, etc. Fostering a positive relationship with tenants and responding to complaints quickly and effectively will encourage them to report issues.
Repair structural components such as fireplaces, chimneys, electrical cables, and plumbing systems.
12. Fireproof Your Landscaping
Make sure to follow fire prevention best practices for your landscaping.
- No brush, debris, overgrowth, or tree branches near your home that could catch fire.
- Grass must be no greater than four inches within a perimeter of 100 feet of your property.
- Keep your roof and gutters clean as well.
- Keep a distance between things that can catch fire: trees, shrubs, patio furniture, woodpiles, etc.
- Remove dead trees, shrubs, etc.
- Make sure to allow for room between shrubs and trees because foliage can create an avenue for the fire to move from the ground to the brush, and then to the treetops.
13. Inspect Kitchen Appliances
Check the state of your electrical appliances, even the microwave. Check vents for dust, pet hair, and other debris.
14. Install Sprinklers:
Residential fire sprinklers can contain and potentially put out a fire in less time than it might take for the fire department to get there.
Keep track of everything you do to reduce the likelihood of fire to reduce your legal liability at your property.
What Can Tenants Do to Prevent Fires
You should put together a list of fire prevention measures your tenants can take. Make sure to provide the list in person, via email and go over it verbally and that any children are also present.
You can break up the list into the following three categories:
1. Overall Tenant Fire Safety Tips
- Use surge protectors.
- Don’t overload circuits or extension cords.
- Replace frayed or cracked electrical cords.
- Don’t run cords under rugs or between rooms.
- Don’t put space heaters near flammable things like drapes or bedding.
- Turn off space heaters when leaving the room or sleeping.
- Don’t smoke in bed or leave cigarettes unattended.
- Keep lighters and matches away from children.
- Don’t store flammable materials like gasoline cans or propane tanks in your home.
- Make sure Christmas trees and decorations aren’t near exits or heating sources.
- Plug major appliances right into the outlet.
- Keep fire exits clear.
2. Kitchen Fire Safety
- Don’t leave food unattended on the stovetop.
- Keep potholders and towels away from flames.
- Avoid loose-fitting sleeves while cooking.
- Turn any cooking appliances off after using them (stove, oven, etc.).
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
3. Laundry Room Fire Safety
- Have your dryer installed or at least serviced by a professional.
- Don’t use the dryer without a lint filter.
- Always clean the lint filter and remove the lint around the drum.
- Make sure the plug and outlet are the right ones and that the connection is proper.
- Don’t run the dryer while you're away from the house or sleeping.
Bottom Line on Landlord Fire Prevention
Taking as many precautions as possible will decrease the likelihood of your investment being destroyed by a fire. Many of these precautions are also acts of maintenance that will keep your investment looking good and prevent them from depreciating.
A well-maintained home is a fireproof home!
To learn more about fire prevention tips in your local area, contact our on-the-ground property management team who can help keep you prepared for the fire season at your rental home.