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Talking Fire Safety Responsibilities with Residential Landlords

Written by Posted On Friday, 17 January 2020 06:00

As a real estate agent, you may find yourself from time to time dealing with residential landlords looking at your listed properties in hopes they can add to their portfolios. Sometimes dealing with a brand-new landlord means familiarising him/her with some of the basic principles of maintaining rental properties. Take fire safety, for example.

You are by no means expected to be a fire safety expert. But as a real estate agent, you might find it easier to make a sale if you can intelligently discuss the basics of fire safety with landlords. Even if you can provide just a little bit of information, it can go a long way toward making a sale.

The point of this post is to offer you some of the basic principles that can help you as a professional. Just remember not to give clients direct advice about fire safety or related regulations. Do not pass yourself off as a fire safety expert either. Your goal is only to acknowledge that landlords have responsibilities and point them to resources that can help them understand those responsibilities.

Regulations Vary by Jurisdiction

The first thing to know about fire safety regulations is that they vary by jurisdiction. The amount of variability depends on where houses are located. For example, fire safety for landlords is a state issue in the U.S. There are few federal regulations that cover every residential property. As such, landlords start with their state regulations. There might also be county and local regulations to accommodate as well.

By contrast, landlords in the UK have a much easier time figuring out what their fire safety responsibilities are. Landlords are governed by six pieces of legislation that apply throughout the UK. For instance, one piece of legislation mandates the fire risk assessment for landlords. All landlords throughout the UK must routinely conduct fire risk assessments on their properties. They must also act on those assessments as well.

The point here is to understand that, even if you could give direct fire safety advice to landlord clients, you could not be expected to know all of the rules and regulations by jurisdiction. So simply answer landlord questions by reinforcing the fact that regulations do exist. Then point them to appropriate resources of information.

Fundamental Fire Safety Principles

There are a few things you can talk about with landlords who have fire safety questions. There are four, in particular, beginning with the concept of coming up with a fire escape plan and going over it with tenants when they first move in. Helping tenants understand their best escape routes at least plants a seed of fire safety in their minds.

The other three principles are:

  • Installing Alarms – Nearly every jurisdiction in North America requires landlords to install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in all rental properties. Simply put, this one is non-negotiable. Any potential client who asks about smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors can be assured that they have no option.
  • Testing Alarms – Testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are also non-negotiable. Landlords are generally required to ensure that their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working condition at all times.
  • Installing Sprinklers – Sprinkler installation is not a legal requirement in every jurisdiction, but it is still a good idea. Sprinkler systems save lives and reduce property damage. They are expensive, but they are worth every penny.

The most fundamental fire safety principle of all is this: landlords are generally required to maintain safe properties for their tenants. They are required to adhere to local fire codes that address everything from electrical wiring to flammable materials and the installation of fire escapes.

Fire Safety in Making the Sale

If there is any bad news for real estate agents here, it is the fact that fire safety regulations may interfere with making a sale. Imagine an agent showing a house that needs quite a bit of renovation before being put on the rental market. Any prospective buyer will want to look at the total cost of renovations before making an offer.

A house in need of only minor renovations is likely to sell one way or another. But if a potential client is looking at major projects just to bring a property up to code, he or she may be scared away unless the sale price is extremely low. A house that presents itself as a fire hazard is going to be much harder to sell to a residential landlord.

As a real estate agent, you have no legal obligation to discuss fire safety with your clients. After all, you are not a fire safety expert. But if you can discuss the basic principles of fire safety intelligently and with confidence, doing so might help you close more deals with residential landlords. It is something to think about.

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