Fire Safety in Los Angeles Rental Properties: Compliance and Best Practices - Article Banner

Fire safety is a crucial aspect of Los Angeles property management, and if you’re renting out a home in the city or the surrounding areas, you need to make sure that you’re preventing fire risk to the best of your ability. Keeping your property compliant with fire safety regulations is just as important as implementing best practices to protect your properties and your residents. 

When we talk about fires in California, we’re generally talking about those accidental or electrical fires that can occur within your property. Of course our state is also prone to wildfires, and we’ll share a few tips on wildfire prevention and preparation as well. 

Understanding the Fire Safety Codes in Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles enforces strict fire safety codes designed to prevent fire incidents and minimize damage and injury when they do occur. These codes are regularly updated, and as a property owner, you must stay informed about these changes. The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) provides a comprehensive set of regulations that cover everything from smoke detector installation to fire escape maintenance.

Key regulations include: 

  • Requirement that you install smoke detectors in each bedroom, living area, and hallway servicing a bedroom. 
  • Test your smoke detectors regularly
  • Replace those smoke detectors every ten years. 

Additionally, the LAFD requires carbon monoxide detectors to be placed outside bedrooms and on every level of your rental property.

Fire extinguishers are a must-have in common areas such as hallways and garages. The city also has specific guidelines for the number, type, and maintenance of extinguishers provided.

An often overlooked but vital aspect is the maintenance of unobstructed fire escapes in multi-family buildings and the clear marking of evacuation routes.

Preventing Fire and Encouraging Fire Safety in Your Los Angeles Rental

While compliance with regulations is a good start, best practices go above and beyond the legal requirements to further reduce the risk of fire hazards. Here’s what we recommend. 

  • Conduct Regular Inspections

Proactive, regular inspections can help identify potential hazards before they escalate into a too-late situation. Check for overloaded electrical outlets, faulty electrical wiring, or even outlets that are malfunctioning. Schedule professional inspections for complex systems like heating and cooling units, as well as emergency lighting systems.

  • Invest in Fire-Resistant Materials

When it’s time to renovate or repair your property, opt for fire-resistant building materials like dual-paned glass, fire-rated doors, and intumescent paint. These simple choices can make a big difference in protecting your investment and your tenants. 

  • Establish a Clear Evacuation Plan

Tenants should be well-informed about what to do in case of a fire. Make sure tenants have access to proper exit routes. Educate your tenants on everything related to fire safety, including how to properly use a fire extinguisher, the importance of not leaving cooking unattended, restrictions on smoking indoors, and how to report a potential fire hazard.

Best Practices When a Fire Does Occur

If the home you’re renting out is damaged by a fire (even if it was caused by your tenant or someone else), it’s your responsibility as the landlord to repair the property as soon as possible and ensure it meets habitability standards. 

There are some questions that will need to be answered as you decide how to pay for those repairs, however. 

  • If the tenant was negligent and caused a fire, then you should not be expected to pay for damages to your property. You can hold the tenant accountable, or their insurance company. Make sure you can prove that the tenant caused the fire; you’ll likely need this in case you need to sue for damages. 
  • Your tenants are responsible for their own personal possessions when they rent a home. They’ll have to file a claim with their renter’s insurance policy in order to repair or replace items such as furniture, clothing, and electronics. 
  • Tenants can cancel the rental agreement if the property is uninhabitable after a fire. 

Whether it’s a fire that begins due to a dangerous amount of lint collecting in the dryer or a grease fire in the kitchen, these types of events are usually easy to contain. Here’s what you and your tenant need to do.

  • Los Angeles Landlord Responsibilities

When your rental property is damaged by a fire but not completely destroyed, then you can file a claim with your insurance company, and they are most likely going to cover the repairs. The insurance company will repair the structure of your property and cover the repairs or replacements of the things that belong to you (such as appliances). 

If the property is destroyed by a fire and the health department determines that the home is uninhabitable, then you should immediately terminate the lease. You cannot legally require the tenant to continue paying rent for a property that is now uninhabitable. This is against California law.

  • Los Angeles Tenant Responsibilities

One of the reasons that we always recommend you require renter’s insurance for your tenant is that it will come in handy at a time like this. If there’s a fire, your tenant should have renter’s insurance to cover repair or replacement of any personal items. If a tenant does not have insurance, then they will have to replace the items out of pocket. 

California Wildfires and Los Angeles Rental Homes

Dealing with WildfireWhen you’re dealing with a wildfire or a natural disaster that damages your rental property, there may be state, local, and federal resources you can access to minimize the cost for you. There may be nonprofit organizations available to help your tenants access new housing as well as any basic supplies that they need. Recently, victims of California wildfires have worked with the Red Cross, FEMA and other government and private organizations to access assistance. Local providers also put together shared housing and resource exchange programs.

If an earthquake causes a fire which leads to damage, you’ll want to file a claim with your insurance company. 

Fire safety is incredibly important, whether you’re renting out a single-family home in Los Angeles with a full emergency plan and plenty of smoke detectors and fire extinguishers or a multi-unit building, which needs escape routes and posted instructions on how to get out during a fire. 

There’s also a lot of information to absorb. If you’d like some help or guidance, please contact us at Earnest Homes. We’re here to serve as your Los Angeles property management resources.