Portable Fire Extinguishers Increase Risk to Tenants and Your Bottom Line

Fire is fast! In less than 30 seconds a small flame can turn into a major fire. Smoke and toxic gases from a home fire kill more people than flames. Every home needs fire protection and a plan for escape. Part of this protection includes safety equipment, but, what about portable fire extinguishers?

Many landlords assume they have to provide one or more portable fire extinguishers in their single-family rental units; however, this is not a requirement and we do not recommend doing so.

To begin with, enabling tenants to "fight" a fire almost never ends well, and giving them the means to do so is actually counter to the safety messages put forth from the National Fire Protection Association, as well as city and county fire departments--all of which stress the importance of getting out of a burning structure as soon (and as safely) as possible. Another draw back is that most people (especially children) have not operated a fire extinguisher and are universally incapable of using one properly or gauging the level of danger involved in fighting a fast-spreading fire. Voluntarily providing a fire extinguisher unduly encumbers the landlord to maintain and periodically replace this device--adding to nuisance maintenance costs (for "accidental discharges") and material replacement of post-tenancy missing equipment (these frequently get packed up on move-out day), etc.

An excerpt from Baltimore County Code ยง 35-5-213. - FIRE SAFETY AND PROTECTION. (b) Fire protection.
(1) The property owner shall maintain all fire protection systems and equipment in proper operating condition at all times.
(4) If a housing unit is equipped with portable fire extinguishers, the property owner shall keep the fire extinguishers visible and accessible and maintained in an efficient and safe operating condition.

Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the #1 priority for residents is to get out safely. Providing fire extinguishers creates extra cost and may actually serve to endanger the occupants--including curious children that may be playing with them.

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