Under NFPA’s Life and Safety Code, hotels and motels are required to meet certain criteria to ensure the safety of all occupants.
Vacation rentals by owner, however, are not subject to these same regulations. The only requirements for many of these peer-to-peer rental properties are building code requirements for residential structures.
This means there is no guarantee the rental you book is equipped with safety measures like smoke alarms and portable fire extinguishers.
The ultimate question is how safe are peer-to-peer or rent by owner vacation rental properties?
Windows & doors
Hotels have specific requirements for the size, type, and number of doors/windows. NFPA outlines the distance requirements to exits and between exits, signage to exits, and emergency lighting required along exit routes. All of these safety measures ensure proper means of egress.
The windows and doors of a house or apartment are your only way of escape in case of emergency. The same regulations for means of egress do not hold true for peer-to-peer rental properties. Look for ways to escape when checking in to your rental. Be on the lookout for rooms with windows too small for escape. If there are security bars on doors and windows, make sure you know how to release these devices. And never block windows or doors with luggage or other items.
One of the perks to renting a house versus a hotel is access to a kitchen; however, the kitchen is the most dangerous room in a house.
The NFPA reports cooking fires as the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.
Make sure your vacation rental has basic fire protection equipment like a portable fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Most homes are not equipped with the same fire protection measures as commercial kitchens. There is likely not an automatic fire sprinkler system.
There’s no way for you to know if the stove, oven, and other cooking equipment are in good working order. Ask your rental host about the condition of the appliances before using any of the kitchen equipment.
Bedrooms & living area
A working smoke alarm is your greatest line of defense against fire. Few residential structures are equipped with automatic sprinkler systems. It’s up to you to have an escape plan and ensure the rental is equipped with working smoke alarms. The number of smoke alarms in a house is also important.
The NFPA suggests smoke alarms installed inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every floor of a house, including the basement. Contact your host or consider another rental if the property lacks the appropriate number of smoke alarms,
Tips for staying safe
Practice home safety in rentals, just as you do at home. Peer-to-peer rental properties or rentals by owner are not regulated in the same way as hotels. Check to see that safety measures are addressed. Contact the host and ask them about safety measures before booking. Ask the host if their property is up to code per their city/state.
NFPA suggests you also look to see the following measures are in place:
- Working smoke alarms are in every sleeping room. They are outside each separate sleeping area. They are on every level of the home.
- Working smoke alarms are interconnected, if possible. When one alarm sounds, they all sound.
- Portable fire extinguishers are in the home and easy to reach.
- Working carbon monoxide alarms are outside each separate sleeping area. They are on every level of the home and in other locations as required by laws, codes, or standards.
- The owner has posted a floor plan. It notes all escape routes and exits and provides emergency contact information.
- Everyone knows the address of the home.
- Everyone staying in the home has identified two ways out of every room and how to escape in an emergency.
- All doors and windows that lead outside are able to be opened.
- An outside meeting place has been chosen. It is a safe distance away from the home.
- Everyone knows how to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number from a cell phone from outside.
- If smoking is allowed, a smoking area has been designated and is well away from the structure. Deep, sturdy ashtrays have been provided.
- All pathways are free and clear of tripping hazards.
- Electrical outlets are free from multiple cords and adaptors.
- The stovetop is clear. Anything that can catch fire is not near the stovetop, such as curtains and towels.
What is required of peer-to-peer rental properties?
There are no specific fire safety regulations put into place specifically for peer-to-peer rental properties. Some companies like Airbnb include information for responsible hosting that includes fire prevention tips, but these are not requirements. For example, Airbnb notes that hosts should have a “functioning smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector, the property meets safety guidelines for your area, that you provide a functioning fire extinguisher that has been maintained.”
Another peer-to-peer rental property company, VRBO, has similar suggestions for hosts. They “strongly recommend” the presence of fire alarms in every vacation rental. Additionally, VRBO suggests hosts provide fire extinguishers, set emergency exit routes, and post emergency phone numbers.
Neither of these companies have any requirement in regard to fire safety. With such little regulation, renters should be aware of fire hazards and try to choose rental properties with fire protection measures in place as much as possible.
Fire Systems, Inc.
Fire Systems, Inc. is an Atlanta-based fire protection company with over 30 years in business. We can help you maintain compliancy with our sophisticated software that tracks when your next inspection is due. Fire Systems can also install, repair, and design all aspects of your fire protection systems. Call us today at 770-333-7979 or visit our website for more information.