According to the ministère de la Sécurité publique, 44.6% of declared residential fires in Quebec in 2015 were caused by a cooking unit or smoking-related product. For owners of one or multiple apartment buildings, this statistic is cause for concern. The fact is that fires that start in one unit can quickly spread to other parts of the building and cause major damage resulting in significant real estate property insurance claims. But don’t fret! By taking certain measures to protect the building and inform the tenants, you can reduce the risk of fire.
1. Make sure the building is equipped with preventive equipment that is in good working order
A properly maintained building combined with the implementation of prevention measures reduces the risk of the fire spreading to the entire building.
- Have smoke detectors installed in every unit, ideally near the bedrooms. Make sure they remain in working order by replacing the batteries and testing them twice a year. The smoke detectors should also be replaced every 10 years.
- Install extinguishers that are in good working order in the kitchen of every unit.
- Take the time to give new tenants a tour of the entire building. Show them where the emergency exits and the fire-fighting equipment (extinguishers, manual alarms, etc.) are located, and explain and demonstrate how the equipment works. A great way to prevent fires!
2. Inform your tenants how they can take daily preventive measures against fires
By making sure your tenants are well informed, you reduce the chances of them making a mistake that could start a fire.
Inform your tenants of kitchen safety measures, specifically:
- Keep a constant eye on cooking food and turn off cooking appliances if you need to leave the kitchen or if you’re too tired to monitor the cooking unit adequately.
- Always choose a heating element that is smaller than the pot or pan you’re using.
- Don’t overfill pots to avoid spills
- When frying, use thermostat controlled electric fryers
- If a fire starts in a pot, use a cover that is as large or larger than the width of the pot to extinguish the fire.
- Never use water on burning oil
In the laundry room or near the entrance of each unit’s washer-dryer area, post operating instructions such as:
- Clean out the lint filter after each use of the dryer
- Never dry stuffed items, or items made of rubber or having come in contact with a flammable substance (oil, fuel, solvent, etc.) in the dryer
- Never work the dryer when it’s unattended
You can also send them prevention tips periodically, by indicating higher risk periods. During Halloween for example, encourage them to use LED candles as opposed to real candles to illuminate their pumpkins. During the Holidays, ask them to opt for an artificial fire resistant tree and inspect the lights to make sure they are in good working order before installing them.
3. Managing smokers
- Create a space for smokers outside the building and install outdoor, fire-safe ashtrays. This area should not be close to flower beds or potted plants as smokers may be tempted to put out their stubs in them. The mulch and soil used for potted plants may contain highly flammable material.
- Put up signs intended for smokers, both inside and outside the building. These signs should indicate the areas where smoking is forbidden, direct smokers to the designated smoking areas, and forbid putting out stubs in the risk areas such as the flower beds surrounding the building.
- If smoking is permitted in the building, make sure the smokers know the safety measures to follow in order to reduce the risks related to smoking products. For example, they should always put out their stubs in stable ashtrays that are designed for that purpose and never light a cigarette when getting ready for bed or feeling tired.
4. Inform your tenants about the benefits of home insurance
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, more than one third of tenants in Quebec don’t have home insurance. Some falsely believe that the building’s insurance will cover them in the event of damage to their property. Others think that their property is not valuable enough to insure, without considering civil liability coverage.
If you haven’t already done so, you could include a clause in the lease inviting tenants to take out home insurance. Even if your tenants wouldn’t be legally obligated to take out home insurance under this clause, you will increase the likelihood of them doing so. In addition to covering their property and civil liability in a host of situations, the support of the tenant’s insurer could really help you out in the event of a major loss.