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Landlord & Tenant Responsibility for Fire Safety

Tate Law Group

Surviving a fire in your home is a traumatic experience. Daytime fires spread faster than seems possible. Nighttime fires can be silent killers that people never wake up from. Burn treatments are incredibly lengthy and painful. Even when someone survives without physical injuries, the experience leaves emotional scars that linger. Probably every premises liability attorney has had to help people who were trying to recover after a home fire not just financially, but emotionally as well.

Every year, there are more than 360,000 reported residential fires, many in rental properties. Seven people are killed in home fires in the U.S. every day. One of the most disturbing elements of home fires is that they are often preventable. 

Implied Habitability 

There is an implied warranty of habitability for rental properties. Tenants bear a certain level of personal responsibility for fire safety, such as by being very careful when cooking, smoking, and using candles. Landlords, however, have a much greater burden. Rental properties must be maintained in accordance with state and local standards. Tenants have the right to expect that the property will not put their health or safety in jeopardy. 

The Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook lists several conditions recognized under Georgia law as threatening the health and safety of tenants:

  • Defects that could increase the likelihood of a fire, accident, or other danger
  • Inadequate ventilation, lighting, or sanitary facilities
  • Structural defects or disrepair
  • Uncleanliness

What Tenants Should Expect From Landlords

It’s actually in the landlord’s best interests to do all they can to prevent fires. Before renting a property, a prospective tenant should consider whether these safeguards have been provided.

Compliance with Fire Codes 

A tenant has the right to expect that the structure complies with applicable fire codes. If there is a question, call a local fire inspector.

House Rules 

Are there any house rules in writing, such as no smoking in the building? What are the rules for grilling? Grilling should either be disallowed completely or only permitted at least ten feet from the building and never under overhangs or awnings.

Smoke Detectors 

Landlords should supply approved smoke detectors and examine them whenever a tenant moves. Ten-year lithium batteries are a better option than standard batteries. 

Carbon Monoxide Alarms 

Since many people die from carbon monoxide poisoning, these should be in every home. The law requiring carbon monoxide alarms has some exclusions, but if they are not installed on the property, ask for them. 

Fire Extinguishers 

The kitchen should include a fire extinguisher. Check the date on the tag to be sure it’s current and be sure you know how to use it. Also, make sure it’s in a very accessible place that takes no thought or effort to retrieve it in an emergency.

Wiring and Electrical Cords

In an older building, find out when the wiring was last checked or upgraded. If appliances have been provided, check if the electrical cords are frayed or chewed. 

Escape Plan

Any multi-family building should have a posted escape plan in each unit, including contact information and emergency numbers.

Reporting Problems

The landlord should encourage tenants to report problems. If a tenant is aware of a dangerous condition and reports it, the landlord has been put on notice and should correct it. Always keep documentation of all letters, phone calls, or emails.

Anyone who has been injured by a fire or other dangerous conditions on the landlord’s property should consult a premises liability attorney for advice. An experienced premises liability attorney will fight to protect the rights of tenants who have been victimized by their landlord’s negligence.

The Tate Law Group is here to help. If you’ve had a fire or other dangerous situation on a rental property, or have tried everything to get your landlord’s attention, contact us!