Help Your Residents Stay Warm (and Safe) this Winter

The crisp chill of winter has arrived in many parts of the country. If you have properties in regions where staying warm can be tricky, it’s important to keep your renters toasty and well-versed in heat/fire safety this season.

Taking the time to remind and educate residents about acceptable stay-warm strategies is important as they start pulling out heaters, candles, etc. to ward off the cold. With approximately 3,500 house fires and many related deaths and injuries each year, we want to help you stay on top of keeping your tenants aware and informed as Father Winter makes his way to your neck of the woods.

Staying Safe with Space Heaters

Space heaterWhether your area experiences a severe cold snap, or your residents simply prefer a sub-tropical atmosphere at home, many may look to supplement their unit’s HVAC capabilities with alternative heating methods.

Enter: The Space Heater. He seems friendly enough, but he can be dangerous if your renters don’t take precaution and follow some easy rules when using him. If you allow the use of space heaters at your properties, consider sharing these do’s and don’ts:

Don’t Mince Words when it comes to your established heating policies. If you don’t allow the use of portable heaters at your properties, post signs and send reminder emails that explicitly state your rules and the consequences for breaking these policies.

Even if your residents are permitted to use space heaters, make it crystal clear that the use of portable combustion heaters, those that burn propane, natural gas, kerosene, etc., should not be used indoors, are likely illegal in a residential setting, and can be potentially deadly (fire hazards, carbon monoxide poisoning, and so on). If necessary, remind occupants of the potential fines or charges if they are found using unapproved units.

Do Promote Research, If you allow the use of alternative heaters, encourage residents to purchase their warmers wisely. Space heaters that come with top reviews and safety evaluations may also sport Energy Star ratings’that means safety and lower electric bills in one fell swoop. Additionally, ceramic heaters and oil-filled radiators produce heat more safely and warm up faster than other standard heaters.

TIP! Think about offering portable heaters for your tenants’ use during frigid months’that way you’ll know everyone is using an approved, functional heater.

If this kind of investment isn’t in the 2013 budget, consider highlighting heater brands/specific model numbers that are appropriate for use at your properties.

Do Monitor Heater Use, Make sure your residents know to keep heaters off of carpets, and away from drapes and other fabric combustibles. Heaters should only be used in well-ventilated areas and placed at least 12 inches from all walls and furniture.

TIP! Post flyers in common areas as a friendly reminder: Best Heater Practices/Winter Tips.

Do Take Extra Caution with tenants who have small children and pets. Look into options for these special situations if you supply heaters to your residents.

Do Check Local Codes and regulations for space heaters and make sure your renters know these rules as well.

Managing the Candle Craze

CandlesI don’t know about you, but when I think of warmth and winter, heaters aren’t the only thing that comes to mind. Cozy thoughts typically bring candles to the fore, and a lot of people love them.

Whether your tenants want the fresh scent of pine or warm vanilla sugar, candles have become a go-to source for setting an aromatic ambiance in homes. They’re also a favorite way to illuminate a space for a romantic dinner, or during a plain-old power outage.

Even if residents aren’t allowed to burn candles at your properties, chances are that some of them do anyway. It’s important to be very clear about your candle policy and penalty structure regarding their use.

TIP! Consider a warning system. And make sure to communicate that you’re not trying to be the big bad wolf. Explain the risks associated with candle use, and provide some literature about why abstaining from lighting candles is best.

A Few More Safety Thoughts for Good Measure…

Fire escapeLighters and Matches, Remind residents to keep these and other potential fire starters out of children’s reach.

Fire Escapes, Make sure occupants know proper fire-escape use and safety.

Clothes Dryers, Have your properties’ public dryers been cleaned recently? Dryers clogged with lint and other materials remain a consistent cause of house fires. Check each dryer on a regular basis and make sure all residents with in-unit dryer hookups do the same.

TIP! Watch this news coverage on dryer fire prevention and it share with your renters.

With a little bit of information and communication, you can help ensure a warm and safe winter at all of your properties this year. Promote being cozyand careful!

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Photo credit: L.C.NÔö£┬®ttaasen/Foter/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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