As the summer is upon us with increasing temperatures, the risk of fires starting is greater and much harder to stop. As it stands, the fires tirelessly roaring through vast areas of Cyprus are resulting in the loss of many residential homes, people’s lives, and the tireless efforts of firefighters to put the embers to ease.
Our thoughts are with those currently experiencing the horrors shadowing our beloved island.
In an effort to support landlords and tenants, we have created this article to promote and inform fire prevention measures within your properties.
Each country has its own regulations when it comes to fire prevention within residential homes, however, there are generic expectations that are important for every landlord to follow, not only to protect their property from loss and damage, but also to protect their tenants, and even neighboring homes, our flora and fauna.
As a landlord, you should ensure the following is completed prior to any tenants moving into your property. Some of our advisable actions are just that, advisable but we believe in “Better be Safe, Than Sorry”.
- Easily accessible fire exits – Ensure that all accessible doors/exits are clutter free and are outlined to new tenants on their first day in the property. Landlords can even put fire exit signs up to make these more visible to tenants. It is important to advise tenants to keep these exits clear of obstructions during their tenancies, so safe evacuations can take place. In case of tenants with mobility difficulties or disabilities, landlords should outline to prospective tenants whether the property can be evacuated safely if they fall within this category. It is more important for landlords to know that their tenants will be safe rather than wanting to complete a tenancy agreement without considering their tenants safety.
- Consider fire retardant items – It might be worth considering using fire retardant paint for your walls and fire retardant furnishings and curtains. Such items can slow down the spread of fire within the home, providing more time for tenants to evacuate. You may also advise tenants to purchase fire retardant bedding in case a fire starts or spreads in bedrooms.
- Fire equipment – The most common residential fires are electrical and kitchen/cooking fires. We advise providing CO2 and Hydro fire extinguishers for your rental properties, as well as fire blankets. It is important to inform tenants where these items are stored (in a cool dry place that is easily accessible), and how these can be used (usually this is clearly outline on their exterior). It is not an expectation for tenants to use these items to put out a fire, especially as these are only efficient for very small fires (i.e. a bin fire), and it is important to inform tenants of this so they do not put themselves in danger. Best approach is evacuating the building and await support from the fire department. Tenants or landlords can also complete visual checks of these equipments regularly (we recommend monthly) to ensure the equipment is not damaged. Some fire extinguishers only last for five years (but they usually have an expiration date on them), so landlords should keep a log of these and when these need to be serviced (usually yearly) or replaced.
- Fire Emergency Number – Ensure your tenants are aware of the number to call in case of a fire and pinpoint the importance of calling them as soon as a fire is discovered (after the building is evacuated). Please remind your tenants that in the case of a fire, they should not be a hero.
- Fire alarms (smoke and heat)/CO alarms – Landlords should have sufficient number of fire alarms and CO alarms within their rental property (based on the property’s size) all placed where fire is more likely to occur and near bedrooms (same goes for CO alarms). These should be shown to tenants on their moving-in day, or even during the viewing. We recommend these alarms are regularly tested by tenants, and landlords should provide guidance on how often these tests should occur and how. In addition, whatever the weather, it is good practice to have a window slightly open at all times when tenants are in the home to minimise CO poisoning.
- Emergency lights – Landlords can provide emergency lights above all fire exits, to provide lighting in case of an emergency or fire and as an additional indication of where the exits are. These lights should also be checked regularly and serviced to ensure they work efficiently.
- Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) – Landlords that provide their properties part or fully furnished should PAT test all their electrical equipment yearly. Such items could include washing machines, dishwashers, lamps, irons, TVs, etc. Tenants are not expected to PAT test their items, but this can be advised by the landlord. However, don’t forget, PAT testing for a residential home is not cheap. Landlords can buy their own PAT testing device, which is a good investment, especially if you have more than one property, as you will save on the yearly cost of hiring professionals to complete this task for you. You can purchase such a device on Amazon for around €250-300.
These are just some advisable measures landlords can take to minimize the chance of fires happening in their rental properties. There should also be a clause within the lease agreement that outlines the landlord’s responsibilities for fire prevention and the responsibilities of the tenant (i.e. testing the fire alarms, keep the property clutter-free, especially all exits, etc.).
Fire is NOT a Joke and the Prevention of it Always Starts from Us!!!!