House Fires

House fires are more common in the cold winter months.  Did you know that December and January are the peak times for house fires to occur? House fires are also most likely to occur on Saturdays and Sundays between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm.

Because of cold weather, people tend to spend more time indoors. Tend to cook more, run space heaters, light candles, etc.  They also tend to nap more!  Unattended cooking, space heaters, cigarettes, decorative lights and candles can all lead to house fires.

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Protect Your Rental Property

Rental property is an investment and you need to protect that investment. One of the best ways to do that is to conduct an annual inspection during the winter months.  Tenants don’t always stop to think about common things around the house that can cause a house fire.  Part of your job is to remind them to use some sense and help protect the house.

Hazardous Item Inspection

The purpose of the inspection is to look for any hazardous situations in the home. 

  • Extension cords run in an unsafe manner
  • Space heaters
  • Chemicals stored near gas fire appliances like the furnace or water heater
  • Missing or inoperable smoke detectors
  • Christmas decoration safety

Everyone uses extension cords, and very few people stop to think about how dangerous they can be. Click To Tweet

Extension Cords

Everyone uses extension cords, and very few people stop to think about how dangerous they can be. How many times have you grabbed an extension cord to plug something in and then continued on with your day?  Did you stop and look it over to make sure it wasn’t brittle or frayed?  Just remind your tenants that they can be very dangerous and are a common source of house fires.  

Extension cords become hazardous when they are in bad condition and are overloaded.  Over loaded extension cords can overheat and catch on fire. Not only should all extensions cords be in good condition, they need to be run in a manner that they can’t be damaged.  I was in a home one time where the tenant had 6 old and frayed extension cords run across the floor from one corner of the room and down the hall.  It is a wonder the house didn’t burn down!

Forbidding your tenants to use space heaters isn't practical. Click To Tweet

Space Heaters

Heating appliances are used by a lot of tenants and unfortunately, they tend to be used incorrectly which makes them hazardous. Space heaters are a leading cause of house fires.  Remind your tenants to use the 3 foot rule and to never use an extension cord with these appliances.  Space heaters used in bedrooms are close to bedding which is very flammable. Many house fires have been caused when a blanket was accidentally thrown over the space heater. 

Tenants are just like the rest of us and tend to be very busy. They tend to run out of the house and forget to turn off the space heaters. These heating appliances should be turned off when your tenants leave the home.   

Use Space Heaters Safely

Keep in mind that some homes have older wiring and may not be able to safely power these appliances.  Remind your tenants to feel the receptacles to make sure they are not hot.  If the breaker keeps tripping when the unit is used, it may be a sign that a space heater should not be used.

Forbidding your tenants to use space heaters isn’t practical.  They will just nod, agree not to use them and continue to use them.  So, the lesson here is to remind your tenants not run them 24/7, don’t leave them unattended and be sure they are far enough away from all objects that they won’t cause a fire. If the tenants are using them because they are cold, consider having the furnace cleaned and inspected for proper operation.

Cleaning Supplies And Furnaces

Everyone tends to stash cleaning supplies and paint in closets.  Many times these closets also house the gas fired furnace and water heater.  This is a disaster waiting to happen!  Always remind tenants to store these items away from the furnace and water heater.  They need to find room in another closet or maybe under a sink.

Smoke detectors are an essential item needed in every single home. Click To Tweet

Smoke Detectors

Every single home must have smoke detectors.  They are an essential item needed in every single home.  It has been proven that smoke detectors save lives by giving house occupants time to escape a house fire. Tenants tend to remove the smoke detectors which drives me crazy.  Remind them that the smoke detectors are there for their safety!  If the tenant has removed them, I replace them but charge the tenant to replace every smoke detector.

While you are in the home, test every smoke detector present to make sure they are operational.  Sometimes this makes them think twice about removing them. For optimum safety, you should consider installing a smoke detector in the hall on every level, by the kitchen and in every bedroom.

Christmas Safety

If you happened to be in the home during the Christmas holidays, check on the safety of their decorations.  Remind your tenant that lights should be turned off when they are not home. Decorations should not be close to fireplaces.  Trees and decorations can go up in flames very quickly.

Routine Property Checks

You should also do routine checks of the home while you are there to look for maintenance issues. 

Check the furnace filters on every home.  Dirty furnace filters will clog up the furnace and cause additional wear and tear on it.  Be sure and take some with you and possibly leave one or two extras for your tenants.

Run the water at every faucet and check for leaks. I am always amazed at how often tenants either don’t notice a leak or just fail to report it.  Water leaks can cause a lot of damage to a home very quickly.

Walk around the house and look at the exterior hose faucets. Hoses should be disconnect from the faucets to prevent them from freezing up. Tenants often forget to do this and it can cause the water line to break.

General Reminders

While you are there, remind the tenants that during cold weather months, they need to let the water drip at all of the faucets. Also remind them to open the cabinet doors to allow warmer air into the cabinet. 

You should nicely remind them that they need run the heat in the home during the cold winter months, even if they go out of town!  We had a house freeze up once because the tenant left town for two weeks and turned the furnace off!  The tenants turned the furnace off because they were worried about a house fire. It never occurred to them that the water lines would freeze.  They came home to a real mess! 

In Conclussion

I have found over the years that common sense is not common!  Rental property is an investment that needs to be taken care of. An annual inspection is one way to get into the property and do a health check. 

When you enter your rentals, you will quickly find that not everyone lives the way you do. Your goal is to protect the investment and prevent house fires.  Doing at least yearly inspections can help significantly reduce the risk of a house fire happening in a rental property.

A yearly inspection will hopefully also motivate your tenants to take better care of the home and not create unnecessary fire hazards.

Do you do a move in inspection on all of your rental properties? If not, why not? Find out how to do a move in inspection by clicking here.