Is your rental property ready for bushfire season?

Another hot Australian summer is fast approaching, and with it comes the notorious bushfire season. For Aussie homes, whether you’re in a fire-prone area or not, preparing for dry and dangerous conditions is a given so we’ve rounded up a checklist of things every property owner should be aware of.

From obvious tips like smoke detectors and clean gutters to a few lesser-known suggestions, consider this your essential guide to safeguarding your rental property and its tenants this summer.

Keep your yard in check

The area surrounding your house is one of the most important places you can minimise fire risk, starting with the garden. Mowing your lawn and trimming the hedges doesn’t just keep the yard looking fresh, it also helps contain the natural kindling that circles a property. That means removing low-hanging branches near the house (or calling the Council to sort out its removal), clearing dead vegetation from the yard, and raking dead leaves regularly.

On the topic of dead vegetation, it’s also useful to water the lawn and garden to keep it green. It does more than look good; dead or dry plants are much more likely to spark a fire than lush, healthy ones.

Work from the outside in

Clearing out the gutters is top of the list for every property owner facing Australian summer but there are ways to supersize your fire-protection even further. Consider getting metal gutter guards to diffuse any fiery embers that fly toward the property, while also helping your tenants keep additional debris from clogging up the gutters. While you’re at it, be sure to replace or repair any missing roof tiles, fix any cracks in external walls, fix seals around doors and windows to eliminate gaps, and enclose any open space underneath the house. 

Another tip for preventing embers getting inside the house (where the fire will find all sorts of flammable material) is to cover all openings with metal mesh screens, from roof ventilation to doors and windows. For rental properties located in bushfire prone regions, there’s also the option to install special safety windows to help reduce the risk of property damage.

Make tenants top priority

Smoke alarms are required in all homes by the law, and the Building Code of Australia specifies that smoke alarms should be tested during routine inspections or at least every six months. If it’s been a while since you last inspected your property’s smoke alarms, make an appointment or organise the property manager to do a routine check to ensure your tenants are prepped for any fire – inside or out.

Additionally, many fire departments are encouraging homeowners to ditch deadbolt locks due to tragic instances where people were unable to unlock their doors and escape a fire in their home. With fire season right around the corner, if your property still has deadbolts, consider having these locks replaced by something more accessible for those on the inside of the house.

Get help and give help

Plenty of tools and apps exist today to monitor bushfires and stay prepared in case a bushfire starts up in your property’s area. Downloading apps like ‘Fires Near Me’ can help track the whereabouts of bushfires, as well as stay updated on their status and movements, and is particularly useful if your property is located in an at-risk area. 

If you have a pool, tank or dam, you can also pop a Static Water Supply (SWS) sign on your property entrance, so firefighters know where they can get water if they need it.

Tenant tips

Owning a rental property comes with a number of responsibilities, but often a lot of these fall within tenant expectations. To keep your rental property safeguarded against bushfires, not to mention keeping tenants safe, here’s the key checklist to pass on.  

  • Sweep and rake leaves from the yard and off wooden decks
  • Keep the lawn short and garden tidy
  • Clean out gutters and notify of any tree hazards
  • Keep flammable materials – from paints and pool chemicals to wood piles and gas bottles – separate from the main house
  • Regularly recycle cardboard/paper materials to avoid storage of flammable material
  • Notify owner/real estate of any gaps in walls or roof issues
  • Have at least one garden hose that is long enough to reach around the entire house

Bushfire season is a serious issue for many Australian property owners, and while the effects can be devastating, with the right measures in place you can protect your property, tenants, and neighbourhood from fire. Summer is just a handful of weeks away.