High tech lives equal high fire risks for rentals

Most of us don’t like to think about life without our electrical devices (how would you read this great article if it wasn’t for your phone or computer?).31963453_m1

And, more of us don’t think that charging them may lead to homes being destroyed.

But, as technology increasingly consumes our lives, the risk of fires increases too.

So what can you do to help protect your investment property?

We Aussies love our tech!

But, all those devices need charging and recharging.

And this has led to an emerging threat to homes – fires caused by charging devices.

The rate at which emergency services are being called to attend fires started by chargers, batteries and cables is growing crazily as our lives become more tech-reliant.

In fact, the NSW Fire and Rescue has noted electrical appliances and faults cause almost 40 per cent of all home fires.

A bad habit that is of particular concern to fire authorities is charging devices on beds (as the device charges, it heats up and can start a fire).

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Australian research has revealed more than half the children/teens surveyed had a smartphone, laptop or tablet charging on their beds, and two in five slept with their phones charging under their pillows.

That risky behaviour (which is certainly not confined to young people… many adults leave their phone charging by their beds overnight too) has resulted in a growing number of fires.

WA’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services notes the number of fires started by devices left to charge on beds, sofas and other fabrics had more than doubled in the last year.

BTW: If you happen to be in Perth, you can head to the DFES Education & Heritage Centre to experience a home fire using virtual reality.

Filmed in a house due for demolition, the 360° VR experience immerses users inside a property that is engulfed in a fire caused by an electronic device being charged.

Prevention

Electrician Courses So how do you limit the risk of a fire destroying your investment property? Vigilance is the top tip from fire authorities, so pass on their message to tenants to take care not to overload power points or power boards and ensure all electrical equipment is in good working condition.

Here are five other things you can do to help reduce the risk of fire damage at a rental:

  1. Smoke alarmsWhile the specifics may differ, every state and territory has mandatory requirements for smoke detectors in rental properties and landlords are responsible for ensuring the home is fitted with the correct alarms.In addition to ensuring an adequate number of suitable alarms are correctly installed and positioned throughout the home, you should make sure they are tested regularly.TIP: Make it a requirement to test them during inspections.State/territory legislation will determine if the alarms must be hard-wired or can be battery-operated.If they can be battery-operated, ensure the batteries are changed at least once a year.

    And although it may be the responsibility of your tenant to replace them, it may be worthwhile arranging this yourself to ensure it is done.

    Your tenants may also have other responsibilities under legislation when it comes to smoke alarms such as being required to alert the landlord or agent to any problems with the alarms ASAP and also not to damage, remove or disconnect them.

    The alarms should also be kept clean, with no cobwebs or dust on them (again, check this during inspections).

  2. Fire extinguishers and fire blanketsExtinguisherConsider supplying these at the property.Only purchase those that meet Australian Standards – and make sure to get the right extinguisher for the type of fire (there are different ones for wood/paper, fats and oils and electrical).Make sure the fire blanket or extinguisher is easy to access, but away from potential fire hazards.And, it is a good idea to explain to tenants how to use them correctly.
  3. Safety switchesInstall RCDs (safety switches designed to quickly break electrical circuits when serious harm is detected) to better protect power outlets and lighting circuits.Check if this is required by legislation and use a qualified electrician to do installations and repairs.
  4. Power pointsEnsure an adequate number of power points are located throughout the property.With more devices being used, there is a growing need for charging stations (power sockets) which has led to many people not only using power boards but also extension cords and double adaptors on those outlets – greatly increasing the risk of power surges, short-outs, overheating and fires.Having a number of outlets in key charging locations around the rental reduces the need for tenants to overload power boards or create dangerous makeshift stations with trailing cables.Vietnamese Power 1.jpg.1758x854 Q85 CropYour electrician will be able to advise on the locations (ensuring adequate ventilation and distance between points).TIP: consider installing those with USB ports… it is said to be the way of the future.
  5. TradiesAlways have licensed and qualified tradespeople install, service and repair lighting, air conditioning and heating systems.And keep on top of electrical maintenance.

Did you know?

In just 60 seconds a house fire will have blown out of control and be giving off poisonous smoke.

By the three minute mark, the fire will have reached over 800°C, burned all the contents in the room in which it started, and spread to other rooms in the home.

The Role of Insurance

Despite even the most diligent of tenants and proper maintenance, sometimes accidents and unforeseeable incidents happen, resulting in an investment property being damaged or destroyed by fire.Fire Kitchen

This is why having comprehensive landlord insurance that covers loss from fire is essential, as this landlord could attest:

The tenants left their Melbourne rental at 7am and by 6pm the house was engulfed in flames.

The property manager and landlord arrived on site to find fire-fighters battling an inferno, which was still being dampened down in the early hours of the next morning.

The cause of the blaze?

An investigation found the fire was ignited by electrical wiring located within the roof cavity.

The cost?

The property was a total loss, resulting in a $350,000 insurance claim.

Owning property comes with risks and landlords can never really be certain their investment is secure.

About the author:

Sharon Fox-Slater is the Managing Director of EBM RentCover and was part of the core team that helped launch one of Australia’s first landlord insurance policies into the market. As the first woman in Australia to complete the Advanced Diploma in Insurance Broking, she is well equipped to educate property investors about protecting what is important – their properties and incomes. For more info, visit RentCover.com.au

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