Owning rental properties like apartment buildings is a fine way to bring in extra income or even sustain yourself financially. You may be a hands-off landlord, entrusting the care and upkeep of your apartments to people you hire, or you may be personally involved in the daily operations of your properties. Either way, you have many responsibilities toward your tenants.
A primary right of your tenants is to live in an apartment that is safe. You may do all you can to provide that safety, including installing adequate lighting and, perhaps, cameras or secure entrance systems. In this way, you do your part to keep danger out. However, it is not always easy to protect your residents from hazards that come from inside their own units, especially the danger of fire.
A fire in an apartment building can be terrifying for the residents. If you have not taken the proper precautions, a fire may even turn deadly. Some of those precautions include the following:
- Keeping your buildings up to code
- Including in your lease prohibitions against open flames, grills and other hazards your tenants may use
- Installing and maintaining appropriate smoke detectors in each unit
- Servicing heating units and ensuring chimneys and ducts receive regular cleaning
- Providing fire extinguishers and keeping them charged
- Keeping escape routes clearly marked, accessible and free of clutter
- Maintaining and replacing appliances that may spark electrical fires, such as dryers and stoves
- Discouraging the use of candles and cigarettes in individual units
Of course, your best efforts will only be as successful as the care your tenants take. More than half of residential fires begin in the kitchen when someone leaves items they are cooking unattended. Grease fires can spread quickly, placing adjacent units and their residents in danger. Residents may smoke in bed or light candles near their furniture. Parents may fail to supervise their children or leave matches and lighters within reach.
If you have the misfortune to own a Louisiana apartment building that catches fire, you certainly hope your tenants can vacate safely and suffer minimal property damage. However, despite your precautions, you may find yourself facing a lawsuit from a tenant who suffers injuries or other losses. You would be wise to seek the advice of an attorney in this case. You may have a difficult time trying to defend yourself without legal assistance, and a skilled lawyer can help you build a solid defense against a tenant's claims.