Managing a rental property is risky. Not only do some tenants pay rent late, but they possibly disregard your safety guidelines, too. One of the most considerable risks you face in managing a rental property is a house fire. If you own an apartment building, a fire in one unit can quickly spread, affecting numerous tenants.
While there are standard fire prevention measures every residential building should follow, the risk doesn’t go away altogether. Since you have no control over the way tenants use their units, a fire can still happen, no matter how careful you are. But thankfully, you can reduce the fire hazards, and in turn, the risks.
How Apartment Fires Start
Before preparing a fire safety plan, study how apartment fires usually start. Like in any other home, apartment fires are also caused by everyday activities, especially cooking. According to the US Fire Administration, half of the residential fires in 2015 were due to cooking-related accidents. The next leading cause involved heating accidents and electrical malfunctions, forgotten candles, and smoke.
With people staying home these days more than ever, fire risks can increase. In such a small space as an apartment, fires are much more dangerous because apartments have limited exits. If an apartment’s kitchen is near the front door, then the front door can become automatically inaccessible during a kitchen fire.
Fire Risk Analysis
To further understand the fire risks and hazards in your rental property, perform a fire risk analysis. It will help you determine whether you should take appropriate risk management measures or not. You can enlist a fire safety professional to do this for you since numbers, facts, and historical data are crucial in the process. In addition, its result is expressed in either qualitative, mixed, or quantitative terms. Hence, it’s best to entrust a professional for this process if you haven’t performed a fire risk analysis before.
Reducing Fire Hazards and Risks
Reducing fire risks starts with addressing the hazards. But you’ll need to understand the difference between hazard and risk. Many people use the two interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing at all. Knowing the difference between the two is crucial in preventing fires on your property.
A hazard is something that has the potential to cause harm—for example, cooking appliances. Gas stoves and microwave ovens can start a fire if they’re left running or an electrical short circuit occurs. A risk, on the other hand, is the likelihood of harm happening. Using the same example, a gas stove or a microwave oven is at risk of burning down a house if left unattended or when you haven’t resolved its issue.
Now that you know the difference, let’s identify the common fire hazards in rental properties:
- Space Heater: Especially during winter, your tenants will run their heaters 24/7. If they placed their heaters near drapes, clothes, or anything that can catch fire, their entire unit, as well as the neighboring ones, can burn down.
- Smoke Detector: Ironically, this fire safety device can also cause many deaths because it didn’t work during a fire. Smoke detectors run out of battery over time, so check the batteries regularly and replace them when necessary.
- Extension Cords: Overloaded extensions, bad connections, and misuse can melt the wire insulation in extension cords and start a fire. Extension cords typically belong to the tenants themselves, so advise them on the proper usage of this device to reduce fire risks.
- Gas-powered Appliances: Some residential buildings prohibit the use of gas-powered appliances because of the hazard they bring. You can do the same for your rental property. Gas-related accidents are among the biggest culprits of house fires, after all.
- Dirty Cooktops: Another reason it’s safer to prohibit gas-powered appliances is a gas cooktop’s tendency to get dirty often. Oil on the cooktop can cause a small kitchen fire to go out of hand quickly.
- Loose Outlets: Loose outlets can indicate loose wires, which can create a dangerous arcing. To minimize their fire risk, have an experienced commercial electrician periodically check the outlets in vacant units and common areas. Remind your tenants as well to inform you of any electrical malfunction in their units immediately.
Identifying the fire hazards will let you assess their fire risk and minimize them. Fire hazards are a very serious matter in rental properties, so don’t be complacent just because you got a fire safety inspection or fire risk analysis. Fire prevention is a lifelong process in a maintenance checklist. You have a commitment to keep your tenants safe, so don’t leave fire prevention in their hands.