Why Burn Injuries are Common in the Home

by on Jun. 11, 2018

Accident & Injury Personal Injury Real Estate  Landlord-Tenant 

Summary: U.S landlords can’t help but appreciate the July 2017 statistics offered by Pew Research Center. According to the latest research, more individuals are opting to rent rather than own. Within the 10-year period between 2006 and 2016, renting increased by more than five percent across the nation.

It’s not just newlyweds or recent college graduates who are dwelling in apartments, condos, townhouses, doubles, and single family residences.  People in their mid-30s to mid-40s seem to be riding the rental wave, as are those firmly in the Baby Boomer generation.


With so much need for housing, landlords and property managers can rely on a steady list of candidates. But what they can’t afford to do is turn a blind eye to the realities of fire hazards in rental units. Even a slight burn can create havoc on cash flow if a tenant can prove negligence on the part of the property owner.


How Fires and Burns Commonly Occur


Beyond installing smoke detectors, landlords and property management representatives should consider where and how fires and burns are most apt to occur. This allows them to work backwards and predict how to fill in safety gaps. For instance, the kitchen is a natural location for “hot spots.” As such, appliances should be maintained in good working condition. They should also be tested on a regular basis and not positioned too close to objects that could catch fire or melt.


Another consideration is the setting of the water heater. When a water heater is digitally or manually moved to a temperature of more than 125 degrees Fahrenheit, the water that flows from faucets, spigots, and shower heads can cause skin irritation and burns in a matter of seconds. For those with sensitive skin, such as infants, children, and the elderly, the damage can be particularly severe.


How big of a deal is this? At least half a million of these types of injuries occur annually, according to the Burn Foundation. Water temperatures of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit can result in a third degree burn within moments. If a burn is severe enough, it can lead to lasting scars and even death.


Jjust a bit of due diligence can avoid this type of happenstance, but not all landlords consider this risk when they’re getting properties ready for rent. They also might not realize that certain populations of renters or residents are statistically more likely to experience burns.


Who Is Getting Burned by Property Mismanagement?


A powerful Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report shows that while anyone living in a rental property can have a burn injury, a renter’s burn risk changes with age, gender, race, and region. For instance, fires claimed the lives of people 85 or older more than their younger counterparts except for those in the 25-64 year old categories. Similarly, very young children were killed by fires and burns at a higher rate than older, elementary-aged youngsters.


Another piece of research published in the journal Pediatrics found a correlation between burns and socioeconomic status. Namely, poorly maintained, urban housing units tend to have characteristics that lead to an increase in younger residents' experiencing burns from fire or hot water. A Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy report echoed the same conclusions, finding a greater number of code violations in rentals located in lower-income neighborhoods.


Of course, knowing who could be at risk doesn’t mean that landlords shouldn’t assume that anyone can be burned by excessively hot tap water or a malfunctioning gas burner. Prevention, as always, is the best weapon against harm to tenants, not to mention the possibility of expensive legal problems.


Landlords who adhere to responsible safety practices can keep fires and fire-related human and property damage to a minimum. They can also keep themselves less likely to be proverbially scalded by a serious personal injury lawsuit.

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