Do your rental properties have self-closing doors? Does your own home?
The last week of December saw a 3-year-old starting a fire in the family apartment in the Bronx while playing with the burners on the stove. (Read Article) The child’s mother found the child and the fire and fled the apartment. All news reports state that the apartment door did not close and the fire quickly spread into the hall and up the stairwell. This fire killed 12 people.
The fire marshall explained that the fire spread so quickly because the door did not close. Department of Housing Preservation and Development spokesman Matthew Creegan says that New York City cited landlords over 7,752 times in the last year for violations of the self-closing-door requirement. It is not known if this was an issue in this fire.
Do you have multi-family units that have doors opening onto a central shared hall? Do you have any units that have doors that connect the garage to the living space? Are those doors fire rated and are they self-closing? Take the time to educate yourself on city codes on your rentals and your own home. Invest a few dollars to upgrade doors as needed and to upgrade to self-closing hinges where needed.
As you install fire rated doors and installing the self-closing features, document every installation with receipts, photos and possibly a document signed by the contractor that does the install. Educate the occupants of the house on why the doors self-close and provide an easy option they could use to hold the door open temporarily if they are moving in or moving out or carrying in groceries. And add to your periodic checklist to confirm the doors work as designed. Then if there is fire as there was in the Bronx you as the owner of the property can prove that you did everything you could to make sure the doors worked.
We also suggest having a brochure or flyer on the reasons for the self closing door and the tenant’s responsibility to make sure it does not get broken as well as having a specific clause or document in your lease that your tenant must sign that states they understand there is a self-closing door in the unit and it is their responsibility to keep it in good working order.
We did a bit of research and found some good Resources