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5 tips to meet fire regulations for rental properties

When it comes to reducing risk, multifamily property managers often need their buildings to adhere to stricter fire safety codes than do managers of single-family homes or duplexes. One small ember can quickly turn into a runaway blaze that spreads from unit to unit, potentially costing millions in property damage.

Discover why it’s so critical to protect your multifamily property and building occupants from common fire hazards and how to do so.

Why are fire safety regulations for apartments important?

According to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), on average, there were 106,700 multifamily residential building fires each year between 2017 and 2019, causing an estimated annual average of $1.7 billion in property loss.

Even more serious is the threat of bodily injury to building occupants, especially in assisted living and retirement communities. The same NFIRS report found that multifamily fires caused an average of 400 deaths and almost 4,000 injuries each year.

Property managers should be aware of fire safety regulations for rental properties and constantly be on the lookout for fire hazards. Protect the safety of your multifamily property, its occupants and your business with tips to prevent the most common causes of apartment fires.

What are property manager responsibilities for fire safety?

To prevent fire risks and reduce legal liability, make sure tenants have a safe residence that follows fire safety codes and that you’ve communicated safety rules and emergency plans.

The National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, outlines fire codes and standards. Multifamily property managers or owners can consult the NFPA-72 for specific questions about their state’s property management fire safety responsibilities.

Discover five tips to meet fire regulations in multifamily properties and prevent common hazards.

5 tips for rental property managers to meet fire regulations

Common fire hazards in multifamily properties include cooking areas, trash receptacles and furnaces, among others. Apartment risks also peak in January and the cooler months, possibly due to holiday decorations, space heaters, overloaded electrical outlets and increased cooking.

Help your building’s tenants avoid fires with these steps.

1. Provide kitchen fire safety equipment.

Apartment fires are likely to start in cooking areas. NFIRS reports that the leading cause of multifamily building fires was cooking, at 74%.

To protect your building and tenants, make sure kitchen appliances are installed properly and with adequate ventilation. Comply with local ordinances when installing smoke detectors. Provide fire extinguishers in the rental units and ensure they’re not past their expiration dates.

Bonus tip: In addition to smoke alarms and extinguishers, commercial properties are required by law to have properly working lighted emergency exit signage. Test your building’s emergency exit signage monthly and keep recorded logs of testing as required by the NFPA.

2. Eliminate HVAC fire hazards.

Help prevent overheating that causes electrical fires by maintaining heating and cooling systems. Hire a qualified HVAC technician to check cooling units, heaters and furnaces for proper installation.

Replace worn HVAC parts and old units when they become outdated. If your building has chimneys, make sure these are inspected and cleaned annually.

Bonus tip: Storing items too close to a heat source is a fire hazard. Advise your tenants that they should keep household items like clothing and furniture a safe distance away from sources of heat.

3. Detect gas leak fire potential.

Natural gas leaks pose a significant hazard for multifamily properties. To prevent and detect gas leaks, have gas lines inspected for faults and do not allow any digging around the property without having gas lines marked by the local utility company. Install gas leak detectors in building units as required by local building codes.

4. Reduce electrical fire hazards.

Buildings with improperly installed or deteriorated electrical systems are at risk of sparking a blaze. Hire a certified electrician to inspect your building’s electrical components regularly.

If you manage an older building, consider updating your electrical system to comply with current building standards. The cost to rewire and replace the electrical system is an investment in building and tenant safety.

5. Minimize trash fire risks.

Trash can easily spark and go up in flames, and piled-up garbage can block exits. Making sure garbage and waste are properly disposed of can minimize smoldering risks. Provide adequate garbage receptacles and have them emptied often.

Bonus tip: According to the NFPA, residential structure conflagrations started by smoking materials killed an average of 590 people per year from 2012 to 2016. Allow smoking only in designated areas with cigarette receptacles and not inside building units.

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