I wrote about annual pre-emptive maintenance last week, with particular emphasis on flooding, a very common hazard for landlords. However fire can be far more devastating.
The easiest way to prevent it is by tenant education. For instance, did you know that a faulty mobile phone on charge is a common cause of house fires? This burnt out a house just three doors away from my own. It was restricted to just one room, but the smoke damage, compounded by water damage from the fire service, made the whole house uninhabitable for six months. I always talk to new tenants about this, and point to a clause in my AST. It states that phones should only be charged on a non-combustible surface such as a ceramic plate, and only when the tenant is in.
I’ve also noticed that young tenants in particular can be quite blaze about piles of magazines or the cord of a toaster hanging over the edge of a cooker. This also gets a mention in my AST.
Smoking is an obvious hazard. If you accept tenants who smoke, Sam Collett suggests in her excellent blog that you require them to smoke outside. She says they often readily agree, though I’m not sure how enforceable this is.
For blinds and furniture covers I prefer cotton or linen to nylons as the former are less combustible. I don’t have curtains partly because these are more prone to ignition from candles.
Candles are a particular hazard. Sam had a flat burnt out because the tenant had run out of electricity at the meter, so had tea-lights all over the flat, including the (highly flammable) carpet! I provide dedicated dishes for candles, the use of them is required in the AST, and candles only permitted for dining. Again this isn’t enforceable in practice, but hopefully it focuses the tenant’s mind. We almost had a fire in our own house when a candle in the bedroom burnt down and set fire to my wife’s plastic hairbrush and a book. I tell new tenants this story as a cautionary tale.
Finally, if there is an open fire, insist that the tenants use a proper spark-guard, and keep rugs back from the hearth.
I’m not sure what I’ll write about next week, if anyone has any suggestions or ‘property-doctor’ type questions then send them in and I’ll gladly reply. If not I’m considering a series of blogs on things to look for when buying a house.