Apartment Fireplace Considerations for Landlords

Virtually everyone loves the smell, crackling, and popping of a warm flame in a fireplace in the colder months, especially during the holidays. However, it can be risky to offer a fireplace in your home or unit for rent. Not only can a fireplace pose fire, burn and breathing hazards, but it can also make it difficult to keep a house warm. They are also difficult to maintain and keep clean.

Before deploying a fireplace feature in your rental, you should research all of the factors including:

  • Different types of fireplaces.
  • The advantages of a fireplace.
  • The disadvantages of providing a fireplace.
  • Maintaining the fireplace and ensuring safety.
  • Other considerations.

Fireplaces are a valued amenity that renters can appreciate. But they can also be more trouble than they’re worth.

Different types of fireplaces

When many people imagine a fireplace, they imagine a traditional wood-burning stove with logs crackling in a fire box surrounded by a beautiful fireplace, apron, and mantelpiece. However, these are not the only types of fireplaces in use today.

Another popular fireplace option is gas combustion, which is usually powered by natural gas. These fireplaces are usually lit with the push of a button and can either be built in, fitted with a wood kit (burners that fit in an existing fireplace) or retrofitted in a previously wood-fired fireplace.

Gas fireplaces can also be vented using indoor air without venting burned air outside, or venting directly, drawing in air from outside and sucking burned air out of the wall (without the need for a fireplace, which a wood-burning fireplace needs). .

A third common option is an electric fireplace, which usually uses metal coils to generate heat and a fan or blower motor pushes the heated air into your living space (the flames you see are actually light reflected from an LED lamp) . There are three types of electric fireplaces:

  • An insert in an existing stove.
  • A stand-alone unit with a heater and mantelpiece.
  • A custom unit that is placed in a piece of furniture or on the wall.

The advantages of a fireplace

Hind Domanowski, senior director of sales and CSIA-certified chimney sweep at Priddy Chimney Sweeps in Rockville, Maryland, says that having a fireplace creates a nostalgia for technology for a while and helps make a house (or unit in an apartment building) one into one To make at home.

“It can also act as a backup heat source,” she says. “For all of these reasons, a fireplace makes rental more attractive to potential tenants.”

Eugene Romberg, a real estate investor and pinball machine in Fremont, California, says that the fact that a fireplace can provide practical heat can make it a worthwhile feature to be included in a rental.

“It can save energy costs. It also offers your tenants a romantic setting,” notes Romberg.

In the Atlanta subway rental market, where real estate agent, attorney, and real estate investor Bruce Ailion offers multiple rentals, he says, “Most single-family homes and suburban condos have fireplaces. The nice thing is that you can ask about 5% more for a unit with a fireplace than one without. “

The disadvantages of providing a fireplace

However, fireplaces can have some costly and also disadvantageous disadvantages.

“Wood fireplaces are not practical for homes or condominiums. There is no good place to store firewood or just dispose of the ashes,” explains Welmoed Sisson, a professional home inspector in Frederick, Maryland. “And the security risks are even greater in apartment buildings, as the actions of a unit can affect the entire building.”

On the other hand, with gas-burning types there is always the risk of gas leakage. And there is always the possibility that tenants are not operating a fireplace or are not properly following safety rules.

“Some people burn improper materials, don’t remember to open the fireplace or clean it, which can potentially damage the property’s interior and fireplace,” warns Ailion.

Sisson frequently observes ventless gas fires in the apartments and condominiums she inspects.

“While these are fine for short-term use, such as 30 minutes or less, long-term use can lead to carbon monoxide build-up – if the right precautions are not taken,” says Sisson. “Most people tend to ignore the instructions for these fireplaces, which usually state that a window in the same room as the unit should be opened a few inches to allow fresh air to dilute these gases.”

Since one of the products of gas combustion is water vapor, these units can create a lot of moisture in living spaces, according to Sisson.

Domanowski adds that a fireplace can also increase your property insurance. And Romberg points out that it may be more difficult to finance a property (e.g. in Northern California, where forest fire risks are an issue), although that depends on your location.

Perhaps the biggest reason many landlords don’t offer working fireplaces is the most obvious.

“Most tenants rarely use it,” adds Ailion.

Maintaining the fireplace and ensuring safety

Fireplaces must be regularly maintained and inspected in accordance with local and state laws and regulations. Wood burning types should be checked and cleaned annually, says Sisson.

“If you have gas logs installed in your fireplace, it will need to be cleaned regularly. The flap should never be closed completely to prevent gas from entering the living space,” says Sisson.

“Landlords should view this as upkeep of the property and have an annual maintenance schedule with a local CSIA-certified chimney sweep. This includes at least a level two inspection with a report describing the condition of the fireplace as per NFPA 211 guidelines.” suggests Domanowski. She says the cost of a second stage inspection is between $ 150 and $ 250, while a sweep is between $ 200 and $ 300.

The experts recommend selecting and planning visits to an inspector / sweeper / maintenance company yourself to ensure that a properly licensed, certified and experienced professional is hired.

“The cost of maintenance and inspection could be passed on to the tenant, but chimneys could be seen as part of the common structure that the landlord is normally responsible for,” says Sisson. “Make sure you state this clearly in your rental agreements.”

Domanowski agrees. “I would recommend that your rental agreement mentions the fireplace and clearly states the landlord and renter’s responsibilities,” she says.

Other considerations

Just because the rental home or building you bought includes a fireplace doesn’t mean you need to get it ready for renters.

“Removing a chimney is rarely advisable. Instead, install a top seal on the chimney to deactivate the chimney and keep out rain, animals and cold drafts,” says Domanowski.

Finally, think twice before installing a fireplace in a rental property that doesn’t already have one. This can lead to more liability issues and costs than you expected.

“I would never add a fireplace where there wasn’t,” says Ailion

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