Should You Have a Fireplace in a Rental?
You bought a great new house to rent out, but you still have one big question to answer: what should you do with the fireplace?
A fireplace can add a lot of appeal to a house as a source of heat, a great place for the family to gather or just a nice looking decoration.
But should you really have a fireplace in a rental home? It can be dangerous, increasing the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Trying to maintain it to be as safe as possible is a lot of work, and might not be worth the payoff.
So, how do you decide if you should have a fireplace in your rental home? Here are 9 tips to consider.
1. Check with your insurance company about the liability
How much more is this going to cost you? Since the risk of disaster in your property goes up by having a fireplace, you’re going to have higher premiums. Check to see how much more the insurance would cost and compare it to the increased rent price. If it’s not a large difference from what the increased premiums will cost you, it’s not worth it.
2. Consider an electric fireplace instead
Sure, some people want a real fireplace. But an electric one will give you the look of a real one and can still serve as a family gathering place. It’s much less risky than a real fireplace, so it might be worth having instead.
If you do decide to go with a real fireplace, it’s going to require some work. And as nice as it is, it's still dangerous. To keep it from being as much of an issue, you should do the following things.
3. Have the chimney inspected and cleaned annually
The more soot that builds up in your chimney, the more of a risk you'll have. The main concern is the chimney getting blocked up, which could cause carbon monoxide to build up in the house whenever a fire is burning. You should do at least a level-one inspection annually to make sure this doesn’t become an issue.
4. Keep a fire extinguisher near the fireplace
This should be obvious, but make it part of the inspection. Ensure the fire extinguisher is functional and hasn't expired. If it’s not working or the resident ends up using it, make sure to replace it immediately.
5. Make sure smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working
Smoke alarms are part of building codes across the country, but there’s some leeway in whether or not carbon monoxide detectors are required. If you have a fireplace in your rental, you should absolutely have carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure these work when you inspect the smoke alarms, regardless if they're required by your state or local building codes.
6. Train residents on how to use the fireplace
Offer to walk your residents through how to use it. You could even make it a condition that you or your property manager must give a proper tutorial to all residents in the home before it can be used.
7. Make sure residents notify management about any possible issues as soon as possible
A lot of things can go wrong with a fireplace. Does it seem unusually dirty? Is something there that’s not supposed to be? Make sure the residents know they can — and should — notify management of any issues as soon as they notice them. You’re literally playing with fire; anything that could go wrong should be addressed right away.
8. Spell out the responsibilities of using/maintaining the fireplace in the lease
As with anything, the more information you have in the lease, the less confusion later on. Make sure to clearly state whether maintaining the fireplace is your responsibility or up to the tenants.
9. Require residents to have renters insurance
This is a situation where requiring a tenant to have renters insurance really makes sense. Ensure their insurance covers fire damage so that if it does happen and it's their fault, they're covered.
Having a fireplace in a rental is a big decision to make and requires a lot of consideration. Keeping these considerations in mind will help you decide if it’s best to keep it or ensure it can’t be used.