Dealing with the Gas Grill

by Harry Anthony Heist, Attorney at Law
Each year thousands of explosions and accidental fires occur due to the use and misuse of gas grills, resulting in of thousands of injuries, millions of dollars in property damage and approximately 20 deaths. Gas grills are dangerous and are usually prohibited in multi-family housing and condominiums, either due to company policy or fire code. Should a property manager prohibit gas grills in all rental housing including single family homes? You may want to give this some thought and read on.

The Mechanics of the Gas Grill Danger

1. Failure to use proper ventilation. Many tenants fail to realize that gas grills emit carbon monoxide, an odorless gas which can kill. Tenant sometimes will use a gas grill in an enclosed patio due to inclement weather or actually use a gas grill completely inside the premises.

2. Explosion of gas when during ignition. Most gas grill users at one time or another turned on the gas, had trouble lighting the grill, had the grill top down and experienced the mini-startling explosion when the grill finally lit. Usually the result is embarrassment and some singed hair. This explosion can be far greater if the grill user forgets the gas is still on and running, and a significant delay occurs between turning on the valve and eventual ignition. A larger explosion can injure a user or cause fire to flammable materials which may be near the grill.

3. Venting. Propane tanks have a pressure relief valve which allows the propane to vent in the event the pressure inside the tank exceeds a manufacturers pre-set PSI (pounds per square inch). This is a safety mechanism to prevent the entire tank from rupturing in the event the pressure becomes too high. Pressure in a tank can become too high if the temperature around the tank is high, such as when the tank is sitting in the trunk of a vehicle, in the sun or in a very hot car. Propane has a chemical additive called ethyl mercaptan which is use to give the propane a distinct odor, but often this odor dissipates or is not detected by a user. The propane can be steadily venting, and a simple spark or lit cigarette can spell disaster.

4. Defective valves and hoses Any long time user of a gas grill will experience the gas grill falling apart in time. The first thing to go is the igniter, the burner on the side goes shortly thereafter, and with time, the hoses can deteriorate. Leaks can and do occur, and a build up of undetected propane can result in a major explosion and often a resulting fire.

So, do you really want that grill on the rental property?

It is completely up to the landlord whether or not gas grills are allowed on the premises. A tenant has no inherent right to use a gas grill on or near the premises, and the lease can simply prohibit its use.

Sample Clause
“No gas (propane or any other flammable gas or liquid) grill or tank or tanks containing any flammable gas or liquid shall be used or stored on or rental premises. The premises for the purpose of this section includes the interior of the premises, the exterior, any common areas, balconies, hallways, lanais, storage areas or garages.”

Dealing with the Tenant Noncompliance

Some tenants believe rules governing grills are meant to be broken. The landlord needs to take swift, firm action against the tenant to get compliance. Failure to take action will increase the landlord’s liability and may result in a violation of the state or local fire codes. A prohibited gas grill is a violation of a curable nature. The tenant needs to be served a “Seven Day Notice of Noncompliance With Opportunity to Cure. This gives the tenant seven full days to remove the grill. Failure by the tenant to remove the grill is a continuing noncompliance, and the landlord then needs to document the presence of the grill after the seven day cure period has expired by way of photos, videos and witnesses. The landlord should also consult with an attorney, who will probably recommend that the tenant be served a Seven Day Notice of Noncompliance, Notice of Termination. Failure to vacate the premises will then result in an eviction action.

Suppose rent is due while the tenant has the grill and is noncompliance?

Our office recommends that you do not accept rent from the tenant if the tenant is in noncompliance. Accepting rent is tantamount to giving the tenant a green light for the month in which rent was accepted and can cause your notice to be voided out.

Self-Help Grill Removal

Our office never recommends that the landlord conducts self-help by removing a tenant’s personal property, and this could include a gas grill. The tenant could accuse the landlord of civil theft or even criminal theft. But, what if the Fire Marshall is demanding that the grill is removed and is ready to fine the landlord, or the landlord is aware that the tenant has the grill inside the rental unit? Possibly it will be permissible for the landlord to remove the grill or at least the propane tank in such emergency circumstances, BUT we advise that you give your attorney a call before taking any self-help measures. Our office is always available for any questions at 1-800-253-8428

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