When we dispense advice on this blog for dealing with chimney and wildlife issues, we usually do so while assuming that the reader is a homeowner. That’s the nature of our business; the folks who typically inquire about our services tend to be property owners as opposed to property renters. In the interest of being inclusive, we’d like to devote today’s post to people who don’t own their living spaces.
Defer to the Landlord
If you rent your domicile, you should always consult with your landlord or the complex’s maintenance department before undertaking any major home improvement project. The main reason for this is fairly obvious: you wouldn’t want to accidentally break one of the terms of your rental contract and wind up in trouble (or possibly evicted). The second, though, is that—depending upon your lease agreement—the property owner may be in charge of arranging and paying for chimney-related services. They might have an exclusive contract with one chimney cleaning business or an established relationship with another. At the end of the day, it’s their building that needs work, so any major problems should be brought to their attention.
Talk it Out
To piggyback on our first point: sometimes, you’ve just got to be a “squeaky wheel.” Chimney issues can frequently be the difference between your house being safe and comfortable to live in and the house being fraught with problems. You shouldn’t be afraid to speak up if you have real concerns about your chimney or fireplace.
It’s a good idea to be vocal from the get-go. When you’re scoping out a place to rent, here are some queries to add to your “Questions for the Management” list:
- “How often are chimneys/fireplaces on the property inspected? Do you adhere to the National Fire Protection Association’s recommendation of once annually, or are they done upon tenant request?”
- “What was the date of the last inspection? Has a tenant ever reported any issues with this particular unit?”
- “Is the chimney on this property equipped with a cap?”
- (For gas fireplaces) “Can you get me a copy of the manufacturer’s instruction booklet for the fireplace? If not, can you at least tell me the name of the manufacturer and the model number so I can look it up online?”
- (For wood-burning fireplaces) “Do y’all have any policies about what kinds of woods and materials I’m allowed to burn in the fireplace? Also, what are the rules about stacking and storing firewood on the property?”
It’s entirely possible that the person showing you the property won’t be able to answer every single one of these questions off the top of their head; a response of, “I don’t know; let me get back to you on that,” shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Remember: taking care of the chimney is a matter of home safety.
On the Up-and-Up
Let’s say that your landlord has a strict “I’ll handle all chimney cleanings and maintenance; please don’t take matters into your own hands!” policy. Does that mean that you’re completely off the hook when it comes to caring for these structures?
Well, not really. You’re probably going to be spending a lot more time up close and personal with your chimney than your landlord (or leasing office), so there are some duties you should still be in charge of. For example:
- Verifying that the chimney is venting properly before you use it and discontinuing usage of the fireplace if something seems amiss. In most cases, smoke damage on the walls and ceilings means that you won’t get your security deposit back!
- Sweeping up and properly disposing of leftover ashes in the fireplace instead of letting them pile up.
- Storing your firewood (and fire-starters) responsibly.
- Keeping a fire extinguisher nearby whenever the fireplace is in use.
- Keeping an eye (or an ear) out for signs of an animal infestation inside the chimney.
- Reporting any and all chimney/fireplace issues to the person(s) who owns your home and following-up on maintenance requests that go unanswered.
While it’s true that the above duties aren’t as “exciting” or engaging as dealing with chimney issues yourself or finding a reputable firm to handle them for you, they’re still pretty critical for keeping things running smoothly and safely.
Renters who are concerned about the state of their chimney or fireplace often find their hands tied when they try to take action on their own. For some folks, this is actually a relief; they’d rather their landlord take care of the issue instead of having to deal with it themselves. Other folks, though, can find the whole “red tape” aspect of it all to be frustrating, even more so when there are disagreements about who’s responsible for researching, hiring, scheduling, and paying specialists to come and do the necessary work.
If you rent your home, we strongly encourage you to go through your landlord or leasing office first when chimney problems rear their ugly heads. Whether you’re a homeowner or a home-renter, Chimney and Wildlife Specialists would love to help in any way that we can. So give us a call today to learn what we can do for you!