With the new year, travel nurses across the country are eyeing the perfect spot to spend their winter and spring. While some will turn south and avoid any cool weather, many love to spend the cooler months in areas known for mild weather and cozy winters indoors.
With that comes a spike in renters looking to use grills or fireplaces during their stay. These homey touches can go a long way to attract travel nurses to your property, but they also come with the added risk associated with any open flame. Residential losses from fires averaged over $7.5 billion in 2014-2018 according to this report from the National Fire Protection Association.
Damages caused by fire also reach beyond actual burned property. Smoke in itself can cause irreversible damage, and the water or chemicals used to quell the flames may also affect the area that was not actively burning. I write this not to scare landlords, but to make you aware of why you need to implement rules surrounding open flames on your properties, and take the proper steps to make sure all equipment is functioning properly.
What Landlords Need to Know About Grill Fires
Having a grill onsite is a great amenity for travel nurses who like to meal prep or relax at home after a long stretch of shifts and grill up some delicious food. Because travel nurses are working professionals, they are typically more responsible than other renters you may find online, so entrusting them to stay safe while grilling is not an unimaginable idea.
The biggest thing is to make sure you have a process to maintain cleanliness of the grill and safety of the propane lines if you have them. While propane is convenient, propane fueled grills also make up the vast majority of grill-related fires, so we will give you some tips to maintain your gas lines and keep the setup as safe as possible.
Provide Tools and Instructions for Cleaning the Grill
While most renters strive to be as respectful as they can, a little help in the right direction can go a long way. If you choose to provide a grill it is reasonable to let your tenants know how to clean up after themselves to keep the area safe.
Most travel nurses do not bring cooking utensils or cleaning supplies with them, so to ensure they have the proper tools to clean a grill between uses, simply leave supplies in the home or outside with the grill. For most grills, all you will need is a wire brush, dish soap, and a scouring sponge.
Cleaning a grill is not hard, but it should be done every time the grill is used to help eliminate build up on the grates which can lead to risk of fire and, honestly, just makes your food taste worse.
First, you will want to heat up the rack. If you are using a charcoal grill, that means get the coals lit and wait until they are hot. For a propane grill, you can simply start the gas and turn the grill to medium-high. Close the grill and let it sit for 20-30 minutes to heat up. Then, take your wire brush and warm soapy water and clean off the grates by scrubbing vigorously. You can follow by wiping clean with a wet sponge or a handful of wet paper towels.
An extra tip is to oil your grill rack before using as well. To do this, simply saturate a few paper towels with your choice of cooking oil and rub the oil directly on the rack. This will help keep food from sticking, which makes cleaning easier and also decreases the amount of buildup that can fall down and accidentally catch fire.
Consider typing up a short list of instructions to make your renters know the expectations you have for the outdoor grill area. In addition, between renters it would be a good idea to check the grill and ensure it does not need a deep clean. Every so often you may need to soak the racks and use a shop vac to clean out the bottom of the grill, as ash will tend to build up over time even with regular cleaning.
Regularly Inspect the Grilling Area for Safety Concerns
Because grill fires most often occur on a balcony or porch, you will want to make sure that your property has the appropriate, safe space to store and use a grill. Ideally, keep the grill on a level, non flammable surface such as a concrete patio. If you have a deck off of your home, consider using a grill mat underneath the appliance for extra protection. Educate your renter on the need to keep the grill away from the home, and the importance of keeping the area around the grill clear of any flammable items like dry leaves.
In between renters, it is a good idea to check the grilling area and make sure it doesn’t need any extra cleanup or repairs. If you have a charcoal grill, make sure the renters have cleaned out built up ashes and disposed of them properly.
And the number one thing you need to do if you have a propane grill is to inspect the gas lines regularly.
Checking your propane line is simple and quick. Make a solution of soapy water and spray the water up and down the entire length of the gas line. If gas is leaking, it will cause bubbles to appear in the soapy water.
In the event of a leak, turn off all gas canisters immediately. When you turn the propane off, check to see if the bubbling has stopped. If it has, you can call a professional to fix the grill before it is used again. If the bubbles continue to form, call the fire department immediately as a gas leak can become dangerous quickly. Here is a great infographic to help you remember these tips.
Don’t Assume Anything When it Comes to Proper Grill Safety
Especially if you grew up somewhere suburban or rural, it may seem like everyone has basic safety skills for grilling. However, if your renter grew up in, say, a tiny apartment in New York City, they likely had very few opportunities to learn how to safely use an outdoor grill.
Along with cleaning tips, it could be useful to leave a list of reminders or safety dos and don’ts near the grill. For example, if you have a specific spot where you want the grill to stay for safety reasons, simply put up a sign that says “Please do not move the grill.” Other good reminders might be “Don’t forget to turn off the gas line” or “Don’t forget to close the grate” for charcoal grills.
You also will want to provide a metal bucket for leftover ash from charcoal grills. This bucket will need to have a lid as well, so in the event that any coals are accidentally placed in the bin the lid will smother the fire. These are fairly cheap and can be used for a long time. Once again, you might make a small laminated sign that says “Please empty coals after every use” as a good reminder to tenants.
Keep the Basics Nearby
While there are a lot of grill-specific safety measures to be mindful of, don’t forget to provide basic fire safety tools as well.
If you are thinking of providing a grill, make sure you also double check your rental’s smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. For an outdoor cooking space, it may be a good idea to have a fire extinguisher both inside and outside so it is easily accessible if needed. Another good idea is to leave a few spare batteries for the smoke detectors. Too often people get annoyed by the beeping and will simply disconnect the alarm until they have a chance to buy batteries. Regardless of if you have a grill or not, ensuring that your smoke detectors are always working could save you a lot of money and heartache in the long run.
A Little Preparation Will Go a Long Way
While keeping a grill or fireplace at your rental accessible to tenants is not a requirement by any means, it can make the place feel a bit more homey and welcoming. I want to stress that this article may seem a little overwhelming, but a lot of these steps will be initial preparations and not something that takes a lot of time and effort in the long run.
Especially if you are located in an area that has great weather or scenery for hanging outdoors, having these types of amenities could help boost your desirability just a bit higher than surrounding rentals. Just stay educated on how to keep your property safe and maintain your appliances, and you should have minimal issues running a rental with an outdoor grill.
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