Fire safety is a crucial concern for anyone who lives in a rental property. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2019, there were an estimated 379,600 residential fires in the United States, resulting in 2,770 civilian deaths, 11,200 civilian injuries, and $8.2 billion in direct property damage.
As a renter, you may wonder what your rights and responsibilities are when it comes to fire prevention and protection. Do landlords have to provide fire extinguishers in your rental unit? What are the fire safety regulations for landlords and renters in your state? What can you do to reduce the risk of fire and prepare for an emergency?
In this article, we will answer these questions and provide some practical tips on how to stay safe from fire hazards in your rental property.
- Fire safety regulations for landlords and renters vary by state and local jurisdiction. Some states require landlords to provide fire extinguishers in every rental unit, while others only require them in common areas or not at all.
- Renters should check their lease agreement and local fire codes to find out what fire safety equipment and measures are required in their rental property.
- Renters should also take steps to prevent fires, such as installing smoke alarms, avoiding smoking indoors, keeping flammable items away from heat sources, and following safe cooking practices.
- Renters should also have an escape plan in case of a fire, such as knowing two ways out of every room, locating the nearest exits and fire alarms, and having a meeting place outside the building.
Do Landlords Have to Provide Fire Extinguishers?
The answer to this question depends on where you live and what type of rental property you live in. Fire safety regulations for landlords and renters are determined by state and local laws, codes, and ordinances. These may vary widely depending on the size, location, age, and use of the building.
Some states have specific laws that require landlords to provide fire extinguishers in every rental unit or at least one on every floor. For example:
- In California, landlords must provide at least one portable fire extinguisher for each dwelling unit that is located within 75 feet of travel distance from each unit.
- In Georgia, landlords must provide a fire extinguisher in either the common areas of an apartment complex or in each individual unit.
- In New York, landlords must provide a fire extinguisher in each dwelling unit that has a stove or oven that uses gas or electricity.
Other states do not have explicit laws that require landlords to provide fire extinguishers in rental properties, but they may still have general fire safety standards that apply to all buildings. For example:
- In Texas, landlords are not required by law to provide fire extinguishers for residential rental properties as long as they are single-family homes. However, they are still subject to the minimum standards of the International Fire Code (IFC), which requires at least one portable fire extinguisher for each floor level of a building⁵.
- In Florida, landlords are not required by law to provide fire extinguishers for residential rental properties as long as they are not classified as high-rise buildings. However, they are still subject to the Florida Fire Prevention Code (FFPC), which requires at least one portable fire extinguisher for each 3,000 square feet of floor area or fraction thereof.
Some states do not have any specific laws or codes that regulate fire extinguishers in rental properties. In these cases, renters should check their lease agreement and the local fire department to find out what fire safety equipment and measures are required or recommended in their rental property.
The table below summarizes some of the state laws and codes regarding fire extinguishers in rental properties. Note that this is not a comprehensive list and that local jurisdictions may have additional or different requirements.
|California||Health & Safety Code § 13113.8||At least one portable fire extinguisher for each dwelling unit within 75 feet of travel distance|
|Georgia||Official Code of Georgia § 25-2-40||A fire extinguisher in either the common areas or each individual unit|
|New York||Multiple Dwelling Law § 68-a||A fire extinguisher in each dwelling unit with a gas or electric stove or oven|
|Texas||Property Code § 92.255||No specific requirement for residential rental properties unless they are subject to the IFC|
|Florida||Statutes § 83.51||No specific requirement for residential rental properties unless they are subject to the FFPC|
How to Prevent Fires in Your Rental Property
While having a fire extinguisher in your rental property is important, it is not enough to ensure your safety. Fire extinguishers are only effective if they are used properly and promptly, and they may not be able to put out large or spreading fires. Therefore, it is essential to prevent fires from starting or spreading in the first place.
Here are some tips on how to prevent fires in your rental property:
- Install smoke alarms in every room, especially in sleeping areas and near sources of heat or flame. Test them monthly and replace the batteries annually. Notify your landlord if they are not working or need to be replaced.
- Avoid smoking indoors or near flammable materials. If you do smoke, use a sturdy ashtray and make sure the cigarette is completely extinguished before disposing of it. Never smoke in bed or when you are drowsy or intoxicated.
- Keep flammable items such as curtains, bedding, clothing, paper, cardboard, aerosol cans, and gasoline away from heat sources such as stoves, heaters, fireplaces, candles, and lamps. Do not overload electrical outlets or extension cords. Unplug appliances when not in use.
- Follow safe cooking practices such as staying in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food. Keep pot handles turned inward and use oven mitts or potholders. Keep a lid nearby to smother small grease fires. Never pour water on a grease fire.
- Have a fire escape plan that shows two ways out of every room. Make sure the windows and doors can be opened easily and are not blocked by furniture or clutter. Locate the nearest exits and fire alarms in your building. Have a meeting place outside the building where you can call 911 and account for everyone.
How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
If a fire does break out in your rental property, you may be able to use a fire extinguisher to put it out if it is small and contained. However, you should only attempt to use a fire extinguisher if you are trained and confident in doing so, and if you can do so safely without endangering yourself or others.
Before using a fire extinguisher, make sure that:
- You have alerted other people in the building and someone has called 911.
- You have a clear escape route that is not blocked by fire or smoke.
- The fire is confined to a small area and is not spreading rapidly.
- The fire does not involve flammable gases or metals that may react with the extinguishing agent.
- The fire extinguisher is suitable for the type of fire you are facing.
Fire extinguishers are classified by the type of fire they can put out. There are five primary types of fire extinguishers:
|A||Green triangle||Fires involving ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber, and plastic|
|B||Blue Circle||Fires involving flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, paint, and grease|
|C||Black Hexagon||Fires involving energized electrical equipment such as appliances, tools, wires, and outlets|
|D||Yellow star||Fires involving combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, sodium, and potassium|
|K||Black hexagon||Fires involving cooking oils and fats such as vegetable oil, animal fat, and butter|
Some fire extinguishers are multipurpose and can be used for more than one type of fire. They will have a combination of symbols on their label, such as A-B-C or B-C.
To use a fire extinguisher, remember the acronym PASS:
- Pull the pin that locks the handle.
- Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
- Sweep the nozzle from side to side until the fire is out.
If the fire does not go out or re-ignites after using the fire extinguisher, get out of the building immediately and wait for the firefighters to arrive.
Fire safety is a shared responsibility between landlords and renters. Landlords should provide adequate fire safety equipment and measures in their rental properties according to state and local regulations. Renters should check their lease agreement and local fire codes to find out what they are entitled to and what they are expected to do. Renters should also take steps to prevent fires from starting or spreading in their rental property and have an escape plan in case of an emergency.