As a landlord, property manager, or a building owner, you want to provide a safe environment for your tenants. Unfortunately, because you cannot be on-site or inside every apartment at all times, you must rely on your renter's judgement and any rules you've put in place to prevent a disaster, including a fire. Here are a few things you can do to prevent a fire at your rental property.
Understand Your City or County Fire Codes
As an apartment manager, owner, or landlord, you must be familiar with an adhere to your city or county fire codes. Each city or county has their own unique codes, including those specific to apartments. However, there are several portions of the fire code that are commonly found in most cities and counties, including the following:
- Clearly marked fire exits. Each fire exit must be clearly marked with a bright sign, and nothing may ever block the path to the fire exit or the door.
- Placement of fire extinguishers. Each floor must feature at least one portable fire extinguisher that is clearly visible and inspected yearly.
- Care of stairwells. The entrance to every stairwell must be free of obstructions. The stairwells cannot be used for storage, and they must be clear of impediments.
- Fire hydrants and fire hoses. The fire hydrants must be easily accessible to fire fighters. If the apartment is large enough, it might require a fire hose, which must be accessible and maintained.
Your city or county fire code might require a yearly inspection be performed by a qualified professional. This professional will inspect the property, maintain any fire hoses, and look for code violations.
Maintain Smoke Detectors Throughout Your Property
In addition to being the law in your city or county, placing smoke detectors and servicing them often is the best way to protect your tenants and yourself from fire damage. Install a smoke detector in the bedroom, kitchen, and hallways of each apartment. Also place smoke detectors throughout the shared hallways and any shared spaces inside the apartment, such as a front lobby. If there is a basement in the apartment complex, it's important to install smoke detectors in this space as well.
Test the smoke detectors in each hallways or common areas at least once a month. Encourage your tenants to test their smoke detectors often. Replace the batteries in all the smoke detectors throughout your home, including the detectors in apartment, at least once a year as well.
Create and Reinforce Safety Rules
Before each new tenant signs their lease, provide them with a set of rules and regulations for the apartment complex. This includes a list of rules concerning potential fire hazards and what can and cannot be done in each apartment. For example, prohibiting the use of candles or smoking is a simple way to prevent fires.
Restrict the use of space heaters during the winter. Even newer-model heaters pose a fire hazard if they are not used properly, which includes plugging the heater into the wall with an extension cord or placing flammable items next to the heater, such as clothing. Whatever you allow, provide basic information about fire safety dos and don'ts.
For example, instruct tenants to clean clothing dryer vents before use and how to properly use their stove and other appliances. Help the tenant read through these fire safety tips and restrictions. Ask them to sign an agreement that they will abide by the apartment complex's rules. If they will not sign this document, think twice about allowing them to sign a lease agreement.
Preventing fires at an apartment building protects the tenants from harm and protects the landlord or building owner from liability and the cost to repair any damage. If one of your tenants has a fire emergency, contact DRC Fire & Water Restoration for help with damage repair and restoration.