One of your tenants goes out for the night and forgets about a lit candle in the other room. Another tenant is making dinner, gets distracted by a phone call, and only remembers the pot on the stove once the apartment is filled smoke. This is the everyday carelessness that can easily start a fire in one of your buildings. Fires can start in an instant and wind up causing severe damage to people and property in mere seconds. Fortunately, as a landlord, there are steps you can take to prevent fires and mitigate their severity. You may think that the potential for a fire at your property is remote, and statistically speaking, you may be right. But if a fire does happen and you’re not prepared, it can be devastating. We recently had a fire at one of our properties. Thankfully, we had taken preventative measures so the fire was contained and no one was hurt. This is why we always make fire safety a priority. Being prepared and knowing how to react in a fire can literally save lives.
Ways to Prepare
There are several things that you can do as a landlord to prepare for fires. The most important thing to do is to make sure that your building is in compliance with any local fire codes. Do a walkthrough of your property to ensure that it is up to standard. If you’re worried that you might overlook something or don’t fully understand the regulations in your area, you can have a local fire inspector do a walk-through. You also want to be sure that you are frequently checking the smoke detectors in each unit. Another helpful safety measure I take is putting carbon monoxide detectors in each unit to help detect when there is too much carbon monoxide in the home.
Communicate with Your Tenants
It’s important to have clearly defined rules regarding fire safety for all of your tenants. Put them in writing and make sure to have a conversation with the tenant in which you explain the rules and give them an opportunity to ask any questions.
Plans and Rules to Establish
One of the most important fire prevention tools is a working fire extinguisher on each floor of the property. Fire extinguishers may not be able to put out larger fires, but they can contain small fires in controlled environments. I also recommend having a no smoking policy in the units. This will not only enforce fire safety; it will also make it easier to maintain the unit and rent it out to new tenants. Another precaution I recommend is restricting the use of grills or banning them altogether. If you are going to allow grills, then you need to make sure that they are being used properly. Your tenants need to know how to check propane tanks for leaks and keep the grill a minimum of ten feet away from the unit at all times. Grill usage should never be allowed on a small patio or under any type of overhang.
Having an Escape Plan
It’s important to have a clearly understood escape plan. Review the plan with your tenants so that understand what to do and where to go in case of a fire. You want to make sure that your tenants feel comfortable reporting any issues to you that may lead to emergencies down the road. Also, after a fire does occur, be sure to look at everything that you have done to help prevent the incident. For example, if the fire was caused by a lit cigarette and you permit smoking in your buildings, it may be time to instate some new rules for tenants.
Stay calm, stay prepared, and stay diligent. By following all fire codes, communicating with your tenants about fire safety, and executing a safety plan, you are creating a safe environment for you and your tenants.