Review your fire safety. Last year we had scores of members concerned with the safety and care of not only their property but their tenants. With hurricanes, large forest fires and floods presenting major challenges they vowed to take a more active approach in preparing for disaster.
But with a new year comes new resolutions and often times last year’s priorities never get followed up with, for example, when was the last time you reviewed fire safety with your tenants? Is it a part of your on-boarding process or do you rely on the common sense of your tenants? Better yet, when was the last time you reviewed your fire safety responsibilities as a landlord?
The tenant’s fire safety responsibilities
Assuming you’re sufficiently cautious or scared by now, you’ll probably want to enlist the cooperation of your tenants to help address some of these issues.
That’s not a bad thing, especially if you go about it in the correct way, but remember that the ultimate responsibility always rests on you. And even if a tenant can be held liable for certain maintenance, you’ll always be more vigilant than they are since you own the property. That being said, here are some ideas. Be sure to check to make sure you’re not in violation of any local laws before adding any of the following to your lease.
If you want to have your tenants help you with maintenance, you may want to try requiring them to be responsible for some of the easier to do monthly checks. If you think this may be a sticking point for them, remind them that the alternative is you will require monthly access to the inside of the property. However, even if they do agree, be sure to check these things anyway every time you visit the property. My suggestion would be to have them:
Ask your tenants to do this for fire safety
- Do the monthly smoke alarm test
- Do the monthly CO alarm test
- Make sure windows in the living areas open and are not blocked
- Check the condition of the fire extinguisher
- Clean the lint trap on the dryer and check the ducts for kinks
You can possibly better ensure compliance by sending a monthly reminder email, something that would be easy to automate though also easy for them to ignore.
You could also write provisions into the lease forbidding things that could cause fires. You’ll have to decide which of these are rules you’d be willing or able to enforce, but here are some ideas of things you could forbid:
Ask your tenants to avoid these items for fire safety
- The use of extension cords for permanent fixtures or appliances
- Overloading outlets, perhaps specifying the maximum number of devices that can be plugged in to each
- Smoking indoors
- The use of space heaters
- Real Christmas trees, if you’re feeling really Grinchy
Honestly though, tenants are only truly responsible for two things concerning fire safety on your property. So be sure they are aware of them.
- First, their main responsibility is to prioritize their, and any other occupant’s, lives should there be a fire. If you provide a fire extinguisher, that needs to be made abundantly clear and stipulated in the lease; the priority is always human life.
- Second, they are responsible for alerting you to any possible problems or safety concerns. They live there and will almost always see a symptom before you will. You may even want to provide them with a checklist. You can do the checklist in the lease or outside the lease. Include things to look out for and immediately notify you about.
I know it’s tempting to expect your tenants to always act rational and responsible. But it’s your property and the buck stops with you. Don’t skimp on safety equipment or maintenance, but prioritize your livelihood and their lives above all else. And why not do it now?