A fire can be devastating for anyone; each year thousands are injured or die in home fires. Although you cannot predict a disaster, the majority of the time, a fire in a rental property does not have to happen. Preventing a fire in a residence involves teamwork between property owners, the property manager, and residents.
As your property management company, we do our very best to ensure that the smoke detectors are working, necessary maintenance is completed, and that tenants are counseled on their responsibilities toward preventing fires. However, the property owner needs to take a proactive role in fire prevention as well. A San Diego property manager explains the practical steps to take to avoid liability and property loss.
Fire Prevention Tips for INSIDE a Rental Property
Every property has different maintenance requirements. Many older properties have outdated electrical, heating and air-conditioning units, and more. It is also important to use qualified repair people to reduce your liability. Below are items we address as soon as possible.
- Install working smoke alarms and provide fire extinguishers. Even if a fire happens, you don’t want to have an unnecessary tenant injury or death.
- Change out overloaded circuit breakers, panel boxes, or fuse boxes immediately.
- Repair any loose or defective wiring immediately.
- Flickering lights or intermittent power surges that frequently occur can indicate a bad connection or a short in the circuit.
- Fix breakers that “trip” or fuses that “blow” frequently. This is often a sign of an overloaded circuit or other wiring problem, usually of a serious nature.
- Check individual breaker connections, especially in outdoor panel boxes. They should be checked for corrosion, signs of thermal damage (smut or smoky residue near terminals), and splices that are poorly taped, chafed, and damaged in wire insulation.
- Repair wiring in attics and crawl spaces damaged by pests or insects. Some old wiring is insulated with a material that insects eat or chew on; squirrels or other rodents will often chew the thermoplastic insulation off modern nonmetallic cable (Romex).
- Natural gas/LP gas systems should be checked for loose fittings, leaking valves, faulty pilot lights, debris or improperly stored flammable materials in areas near these appliances. If there is a smell of gas or a leak suspected, a professional should immediately inspect gas plumbing (pipes), valves, and regulators.
- Have periodic checks of air conditioning and heating units repaired as needed. This can prevent a fan motor from being overworked, and save money in the long haul.
- Window air-conditioners should never have extension cords.
- If there is a fireplace, have a periodic inspection of the chimney and the condition of the fireplace.
Fire Prevention Tips for OUTSIDE a Rental Property
Fires can easily happen outside the property, particularly in an area where there are brush fires or wildfires. Here are more steps for prevention, depending on the needs of your property.
- Remove vines from house walls; move shrubs and other landscaping away from house walls.
- Remove highly flammable and low-branched trees, such as evergreens, eucalyptus, and juniper when possible.
- Remove tree debris, such as fallen limbs, leaves, and pine needles and cones.
- Remove debris beneath decks and other overhangs; remove debris from gutters.
- Remove wooden exterior structures, such as decks and patios, or replacing them with materials that are more fire resistant if they present a hazard.
- Consider installation of non-combustible roofing and siding materials, such as metal, slate, or concrete.
- Consider installation of fire resistant landscaping, particularly in a high fire danger area.
- Create a “defensible space” by removing all flammable vegetation at least 30 feet from all structures. On slopes or in high fire hazard areas remove flammable vegetation out to 100 feet or more.
Preventing a fire is a high priority in managing your property and reducing your liability. We will advise both you and your tenants when we see the need for preventative measures.