Last month, a fire in a Massachusetts rental home claimed the life of a 4-year old boy. Safety officials had recently inspected other homes owned by the same landlord. Missing smoke detectors and lack of exits were among the problems discovered.
The fire marshal’s office hasn’t said if missing or defective smoke detectors played a role in the boy’s death. Their investigation is ongoing. You can read the full story here.
There are at least two lessons we can learn from this tragedy …
The first is to make sure your rental home is up to code. And the code in your area might be stricter for rental homes than it is for owner-occupied homes.
Second, inspect your rentals monthly. I tell tenants that I need to change the A/C filter each month. While you are there with your stepladder, check the smoke alarms. In some jurisdictions, it is the landlord’s responsibility to install and maintain them. I also suggest you add in the lease, and the tenant handbook, that tenants must tell you if the alarm goes off.
And for some odd reason, tenants like to remove the batteries. I don’t know whether they use the batteries in one of their electronic doodads, or the alarm goes off while they’re cooking. If you find that this is an ongoing problem with a tenant, tell him in writing to stop disabling the alarm. You sure don’t want your property destroyed, or someone’s life lost, in a fire that could have been contained if an alarm had gone off.