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Summer means outdoor activities, like parades, playgrounds, fireworks and swimming. One fine weather activity that landlords must pay close attention to is gas grilling. Gas grills can cause a lot of problems for landlords and their properties when tenants use and store them improperly. This guide will help landlords determine the appropriate rules and regulations they want to implement and enforce when it comes to tenants and their gas grills.
What’s Wrong with Gas Grills?
Gas grills are a fun, economical and festive way to prepare food outdoors, and three out of every 5 U.S. homes have a grill of some kind. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there’s an average of 8,800 home fires that are directly caused by grilling.
Gas grills also contribute to more home fires than charcoal grills do. In 2012, nearly 17,000 people visited the emergency room due to gas grill accidents, according to the NFPA. All in all, gas grills can mean injury or damage to property—something that landlords should be very concerned about.
How Are Gas Grills Dangerous?
Like any cooking appliance, there are certain dangers that are present during use. Many people mistakenly believe that because a gas grill is outside that the danger is low to non-existent. However, there are several things about gas grills that can cause them to be some of the most dangerous appliances on the property.
If a grill’s ignition is not working properly, it can cause an excess of gas to build up under the grill hood. When the light finally ignites the gas, it can cause an explosion that includes a fireball. Small explosions can cause flammable objects nearby to ignite, and may singe hair, eyebrows and skin of nearby observers. Large explosions can cause flammable objects further away to catch fire, and can inflict significant burns on people and pets nearby.
Gas grills with propane tanks are set up with a pressure relief valve. This important feature provides the propane with an avenue to vent if the tank pressure exceeds the allowed measurement. Sometimes when conditions are right, such as in high ambient temperatures, the gas starts to vent into the air near the grill. Any type of spark can set off an explosion of that lingering gas, like a lighter or a cigarette. The grill doesn’t even have to be on for venting to occur.
The grilling process causes carbon monoxide gas to be released into the nearby atmosphere. This odorless, tasteless, invisible gas can become deadly if it is built up in a small space without ventilation. Using a gas grill indoors is a bad idea for this reason. Even using a gas grill in an enclosed patio space, open garage or shed can cause deadly buildup. Using a gas grill close to a structure like a house or apartment where the gas can seep inside can also cause illness and even death.
Ruptured tanks, valves and hoses
As grills age and weather, their parts start to wear out. The valves, hoses and even the tank can deteriorate. Leaking hoses and weakening valves can cause gas to leak out, build up too much pressure or even rupture the tank. Explosions and fires are common when this happens.
These reasons and more are why many property managers and landlords simply ban gas grills on any rental property.
Apartment Grill Rules
Sometimes it isn’t a choice for landlords to determine whether gas grills will be allowed on a rental property. Many states and municipalities have details about open flames and grills in their fire codes.
It’s not uncommon for single and multi-unit buildings to fall under fire codes that prohibit grills on balconies, landings and patios.
California Fire Code BBG Grills
For example, in California it is against the fire code for open flame devices to be used within 10 feet of a combustible construction.
NYC Fire Code Gas Grills
In New York City, there are extensive restrictions on grilling, and it’s even illegal to carry more than a pound of propane through a house or apartment.
Boston Massachusetts Fire Code Gas Grills
In Boston, the fire department has banned charcoal grills anywhere near or on a residential structure. The state of Massachusetts has banned all grills with portable fuel tanks anywhere above the first floor of a structure or building, so no rooftop, balcony or even fire escape grilling is allowed.
Landlords who are interested in whether their multi-unit property has restrictions on gas grills should check with the local fire department to find out.
If there are no restrictions, landlords must decide whether they will implement a gas grill ban or allow them with restrictions.
What About Gas Grills and Single Family Homes?
Gas grills and single-family home renters are a little tougher to decide on. In a multi-unit property, residents often have limited outdoor space, stricter fire codes and neighbors that are simply too close. In a single family home, however, most of these conditions don’t apply, as they often have large backyards and spacious patios. So the question is whether landlords should allow tenants to have gas grills. Is the patio big enough? Can the tenant grill a safe distance from the structure? What about distance from neighbors? There are many factors to consider in making the decision.
The bottom line is that it’s completely up to the landlord about whether or not to allow gas grills in a single family rental property. It’s easy to simply ban them, citing fire hazards or similar reasons. However, granting permission for a gas grill in a single family rental property can help tenants enjoy the property more, feel more comfortable at home, and give them incentive to renew their lease agreement when the time comes. Landlords simply need to decide on whether or not they want to allow a gas grill.
Choosing to Ban Gas Grills
If landlords want to ban gas grills in a rental property, whether multi-unit or single family, it simply needs to state in the lease agreement that the use of gas grills is strictly prohibited. The lease should also state that there should never be any flammable gas tanks stored in the rental property. This will include propane gas tanks used for gas grills. If landlords want to ban all kinds of grills, the language should specify charcoal and gas, or even any kind of open flame cooking system.
Choosing to Allow Gas Grills
Landlords who allow the use of gas grills in rental properties, whether multi-unit or single family, must be very clear with the tenant about any restrictions or rules regarding the grill. Giving tenants a copy of the local or state fire code regulations concerning grilling is an important part of educating them on why grill restrictions are in place. It’s not just a landlord choosing to be mean, but actually is part of being compliant with the law and taking measures to ensure maximum safety and security for property.
Landlords should write up a clear gas grill lease addendum that specifically states the locations on the property where a gas grill is allowed. For example, if there is a distance requirement of 10 feet from any structure, landlords can spell out exactly what that distance is. There should also be language about storing propane tanks and that storage should never be inside the rental unit or even close to it. If there is a shed on the property, that may be an acceptable location if it is far enough from the house.
Finally, the grill addendum should include language about what might happen to the tenant if they violate the regulations, or cause damage to the structure. That way, both landlord and tenant are in agreement of the course of action that will happen in the event of damage from the tenant’s gas grill.
Gas Grills and Lease Violations
If landlords have set up clear rules and regulations regarding gas grills, what steps should they take when they discover that the tenant is violating those rules? Landlords should always take pictures of the gas grill problem when it is reasonable to do so, to document the violation visually. If photos are not an options, landlords can interview other tenants or the neighbors for statements of gas grill use and abuse by tenants.
As with any lease violation, landlords should deliver an official comply or quit notice. The tenant must resolve the issue with the gas grill within the time frame allowed or eviction proceedings will take place. If the tenant fails to remove the gas grill in a no-grill property by the time allowed by the notice, then the landlord can begin eviction proceedings.
Landlords should never take matters into their own hands and remove the gas grill on their own, even to store it in a safer location. Even if the presence of the grill is a lease violation, it is still property of the tenant and taking it could be considered a theft and could get the landlord in trouble with the local police.
Gas Grills Final Thoughts
Whether a landlord allows them on the property or not, there’s no doubt that gas grills can be a real point of contention unless there are clear rules and regulations spelled out in the lease agreement. In order to keep the peace and keep the rental properties the way landlords need them for safety reasons, landlords need to be up front about gas grills and consistent in enforcing those rules.