So, you want to learn more about fire safety. In California, one of your major concerns are fires, so it’s normal to be concerned about property damage and the safety of your tenants.
On the topic of fires, there are many things to keep in mind: renter's insurance, fire safety procedures, and how to protect properties in a fire. You should take full advantage of the rental application process and gain a good understanding of your applicants. After all, being ready for the worst-case scenario is something you should always strive for.
When you’re talking with future tenants, it’s a great idea to require renter’s insurance. Not only does it protect the tenant, but it also minimizes the possibility of lawsuits.
Picture this scenario: A small kitchen fire is started by the tenant, and the tenant may want to file a claim against the landlord. If the tenant has renter’s insurance, then they will have their damaged belongings reimbursed and that would be the end of it. However, if the tenant happens to not have renter’s insurance, the landlord might run into some complications with them. To the landlord’s dismay, higher premiums will follow if his or her insurance company agrees to pay for the reimbursements.
Having insurance also has other benefits to both the landlord and the tenant:
- If something like a fire causes your property to be in what is known as an “unlivable situation,” tenants with renter’s insurance will have temporary housing paid for by the insurance company.
- Your homeowner’s insurance deductible is usually covered by renter’s insurance policies.
- The question of insurance can be an extra step of screening during the rental application process. If you require applicants to have insurance, and they complain about it, this can be an indicator of an unideal applicant.
Working with Tenants to Reduce Fire Likelihood
Here is the situation: Your tenant is at home when a fire breaks out. Fortunately for them, the fire is still in a manageable state. Here are some things you can do or suggest to your tenant ahead of time to mitigate or possibly prevent a fire:
- Provide smoke detectors and open a tab at a hardware store so tenants can replace batteries as needed.
- Provide tenants with contact information for the local fire department, including phone numbers and an address.
- Supply household fire extinguishers in kitchen areas to be used in the event of small accidents.
- Provide tenants with an emergency plan sample, so they are encouraged to think through what they should do during an emergency.
In the event of a fire, the primary concern is human life. To tenants who are renting a property, there are a few steps that can minimize the risks of injury and even death. You can provide a FEMA guide to tenants upon move-in so that they are aware of the dangers and can protect themselves:
- Dial 9-1-1 and inform the dispatcher of the situation.
- Stay as calm as possible, to minimize confusion and panic.
- Prevent smoke inhalation, by closing cracks and gaps with tape, towels, or rags.
- If possible, find a door that is cool to the touch and escape through the stairs. Do not use elevators during a fire.
- Once you have exited the building, let the fire department do their work.
It’s a great idea to let your tenants know applicable fire guidelines and the location of any fire safety equipment.
Preparing a Fire-Resistant Property
Living in a state like California, it seems like a new fire starts daily. Given this fact, it is a great idea to have all commercial and residential structures checked for proper fire protection procedures. If you ever feel that a structure is not prepared, here are a couple of helpful fire safety inspection tips.
- Assess Building Material
- The fire safety requirements provided by the International Code Council recommend that the building material of a structure is rated by an approved fire-resistance inspector. This would mean getting material that is approved by a State Fire Marshall. However, this is merely a recommended measure and not a requirement in the state of California.
- If the structure is already made from certified fire-resistant material, it is a safe practice to regularly maintain its fire-retardant capabilities. (International Code Council)
- Provide Fire Safety Equipment
- Fire prevention systems and extinguishing equipment can help prevent property damage and help save lives. Equipment ranging from smoke alarms to extinguishers are vital items that can be used to protect against fires and are, according to the International Building Code, required fire prevention systems.
- Sprinklers are required fire prevention systems in multi-residence complexes. Buildings such as apartment complexes and commercial buildings would be under that category.
- Fire alarm systems are required in most buildings and, in accordance with the International Fire Code, in rooms where people “dwell” or “sleep”. The UL science and technology community states that a smoke alarm can be used as an alternative to a fire alarm only if they are placed in “dwelling” areas of a home.
- Extinguishers are required equipment, and a safe home should have more than one, with one placed in the kitchen and another stored in another easy to locate area.
- Research the Area
- Sometimes it’s good to keep an eye on where fire zones are located. The CAL FIRE website features a list of counties and their respective cities on their “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (VHFHSZ)” list. Some of the areas on this list include: Alameda County, Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Orange County, and several others that are featured on the list.
Fires are a danger, especially in a state like California. To prevent loss of life and damage to property, it is good to keep educated and inform tenants on proper safety procedures. Take time during the rental application process to make sure tenants have insurance, which should be a must in California. Plan thoroughly, so that you and your tenants are ready if a fire does occur.