Being a landlord comes with a heaping pile of responsibility. There are toilets to fix, rent to collect, and painting to do. There’s one responsibility that comes before all those others, however; and I bet you can guess what it is…
The safety of your tenants.
Believe-it-or-not, houses today are still at great risk from fire. Under all that carefully plastered drywall and the maddening layers of wallpaper is a skeleton of wood, much like there would’ve been 500 years ago. And while we’ve significantly decreased the number of open flames in our dwellings, injury and death due to fire happens every year.
It’s never too early or too late to protect your tenants and property from danger.
Evaluate the Risk
Before each new tenant moves in, walk around the property and do a fire risk assessment. Identify any possible hazards and remove them, or protect against them if removing them is impossible. Make sure there are two escape routes from each room, including doors and windows. These should be free from obstructions and easy to operate.
Draw up a map of the house that clearly indicates the escape routes from every room, and post copies of this throughout the house. When a new tenant moves in, explain the plan and even walk through it with them. This will make everyone, especially families with children; feel safer in your home. The safer a tenant feels, the more likely they are to rent from you for a long time.
When perspective tenants are visiting, consider pointing out the fire escape route map. This will show them that you’re concerned about their welfare.
Encourage your tenants to review the fire safety plan together twice a year. This will ensure that it’s fresh in everyone’s minds should a disaster happen. If there are any wheel-chair bound or otherwise less-mobile individuals in the house, encourage your tenants to select a person (and a backup) to be in charge of making sure that individual gets out safely in the event of a fire.
Sometimes, closed doors stop the spread of fire and smoke for a short time, which means that sleeping individuals may not be aware that the house is on fire. To remedy this, install smoke alarms in each sleeping room, outside of each sleeping area, and on every level of the home.
The National Fire Alarm Code actually requires that you install interconnected fire alarms, which means that when one goes off, they all do. Make sure your rental property is stocked with extra smoke alarm batteries so your tenant is able to keep them running. When you do maintenance checks on the property, smoke alarm batteries are something you should pay special attention to.
If you’re renting a larger apartment building instead of a house, make sure your building is outfitted with smoke detectors, well-lit exit paths, fire extinguishers, and automatic sprinkler systems.
Fire isn’t something to bite your fingernails about, but it is something to be wary of. Luckily, with these few easy tips in mind you’ll be ready should the worst happen!