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#1 chrijeff

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 07:22 AM

What is the legal definition of a "fire hazard"? As a tenant, I find that people (landlords, government types, insurance companies) are obsessed with this concept to the point of ridiculousness. If it means "something that can burn," well, almost anything can burn; does that mean I'm not allowed to own furniture, or clothing, or books? And if it means "something that might burst into flame," very few household items do that, so why (especially since I don't smoke) am I being bugged?

#2 pg1067

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 08:32 AM

What is the legal definition of a "fire hazard"?


Whether such a thing exists and, if it does, what it is obviously depends on the laws of the unidentified state about which you are concerned.


does that mean I'm not allowed to own furniture, or clothing, or books?


I'm not sure what "that" refers to in this sentence, but I should hope it goes without saying that no state imposes a legal prohibition against owning any of these three things.


And if it means "something that might burst into flame," very few household items do that, so why (especially since I don't smoke) am I being bugged?


I haven't the slightest idea why (or by whom) you're "being bugged." Nor can I comprehend why you would pose a question like this to complete strangers on an Internet message board. Your post provides no context whatsoever for your rather oblique questions.

#3 chrijeff

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 09:37 AM

Why would anyone pose a question "to complete strangers on an Internet message board"? Because they hope someone can answer it. I have looked online for the state code and find nothing in it that defines a "fire hazard," only several references to that concept.

#4 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 09:52 AM

What state is this fire hazard term concerning?

#5 chrijeff

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:08 AM

Pennsylvania. I did look up the fire code, but as mentioned, found only references to the term, not a definition of it. Apparently a fire hazard is whatever someone thinks it is, but that doesn't suit me.

#6 Fallen

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 11:40 AM

Can't give decent feedback if you won't provide relevant info; you may want to re-read your post with a stranger's eye and start over. It might be helpful if you'd actually explain the context and particulars (the nonsense rhetorical questions about not being able to have furniture or books isn't particularly helpful). Regardless of what your landlord is doing-saying-demanding and calling a fire hazard (I gather), you're free to argue that it isn't and petition the local landlord-tenant court for intervention if the landlord is harassing you or attempting to terminate your tenancy because of it.

You're naturally also free to pester your local fire dept.

I'll echo PG's advisory "warning" with a twist: (Many) legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here might not fully identify or explain the ramifications of your particular problem. I do not give legal advice as such (and such is impermissible here at any rate). Comments are based on personal knowledge and experience and legal info gleaned over a quarter century, and every state has differing laws on and avenues to address most topics.  If you need legal advice, you need to consult (and pay) a professional so that you may have someone to hold accountable.  Acting on personal and informational advice from a stranger on the internet is a bad idea -- at least not without your own thorough due dilience/research and confirmation as it applies to your situation.  :)


#7 pg1067

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 04:33 PM

Why would anyone pose a question "to complete strangers on an Internet message board"? Because they hope someone can answer it.


No? Really? I should hope it would go without saying that there's a big difference between something like, "in Alabama, how many days' notice does a landlord have to give a tenant in order to evict the tenant for non-payment of rent," and "a couple of days ago, my landlord gave me a nasty look. Why?" The first question is very clear question that can be answered quite easily by reference to Alabama law and, therefore, is an excellent question to post on an Internet message board. The second question, rather obviously, would be impossible for anyone on a message board to answer. Your "why . . . am I being bugged" question is obviously much more like the second question than the first.


Pennsylvania. I did look up the fire code, but as mentioned, found only references to the term, not a definition of it. Apparently a fire hazard is whatever someone thinks it is, but that doesn't suit me.


Well that's just great. However, since you haven't bothered to provide any context, it's impossible for anyone here to help you. If you'd like to provide context, instead of being a smart ass, we'll be happy to try and help.

#8 adjusterjack

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 08:24 AM

What is the legal definition of a "fire hazard"? As a tenant, I find that people (landlords, government types, insurance companies) are obsessed with this concept to the point of ridiculousness. If it means "something that can burn," well, almost anything can burn; does that mean I'm not allowed to own furniture, or clothing, or books? And if it means "something that might burst into flame," very few household items do that, so why (especially since I don't smoke) am I being bugged?


I'm going to take a wild guess that you have some objection to the smoke detectors in your apartment because you think they are "bugging" devices.

That's a bit irrational.

But, as to why they are there, it's very likely a building code requirement which you ought to be able to find in PA's Uniform Construction Code:

http://www.portal.st...D=552943&mode=2

Even if it's not part of the code, the building owner has every right to install smoke detectors to protect his property (and everybody's lives) in the event of an unforseen or unpredictable occurrence.

Besides, if the electrical wiring in your apartment starts smoldering, wouldn't you want a warning, or would you rather be engulfed by flames when the whole place is on fire?

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#9 chrijeff

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 08:50 AM

I have no objection to smoke alarms (except for their irritating habit of going off when it isn't necessary). I have an objection to someone (be it an inspector, my landlord, or anyone else) saying arbitrarily that something is a "fire hazard." I want to know how they define "fire hazard." Is it:
(1) something that can *cause* a fire? Bad wiring? Oily rags in the basement? That's the landlord's department.
(2) something that could burn if there *were* a fire? Almost anything will burn, including wooden kitchen cabinets (installed by the landlord), wood (most furniture), cloth (clothing, curtains), plastic (almost everything else). Does this mean I can't own any of these things? If not, what *can* I own?
(3) something that could burst spontaneously into flame? Very few household items do this.
(4) something that could block my ability to get out if there were a fire? How would anyone know which way I might try to escape? How do they know I couldn't quickly move it, whatever it is?
And I am not being a smartass. I am asking for a reasonable, comprehensible definition of a term that was presented to me.

#10 chrijeff

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 09:40 AM

Regardless of what your landlord is doing-saying-demanding and calling a fire hazard (I gather), you're free to argue that it isn't and petition the local landlord-tenant court for intervention if the landlord is harassing you or attempting to terminate your tenancy because of it.

You're naturally also free to pester your local fire dept.


I don't think we *have* landlord/tenant court here. However, asking the FD is a good thought; I'll try that. If anyone should know what a fire hazard is, it's the people who fight fires for a living. Thank you.

#11 adjusterjack

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 06:38 AM

I have no objection to smoke alarms (except for their irritating habit of going off when it isn't necessary). I have an objection to someone (be it an inspector, my landlord, or anyone else) saying arbitrarily that something is a "fire hazard." I want to know how they define "fire hazard." Is it:
(1) something that can *cause* a fire? Bad wiring? Oily rags in the basement? That's the landlord's department.
(2) something that could burn if there *were* a fire? Almost anything will burn, including wooden kitchen cabinets (installed by the landlord), wood (most furniture), cloth (clothing, curtains), plastic (almost everything else). Does this mean I can't own any of these things? If not, what *can* I own?
(3) something that could burst spontaneously into flame? Very few household items do this.
(4) something that could block my ability to get out if there were a fire? How would anyone know which way I might try to escape? How do they know I couldn't quickly move it, whatever it is?
And I am not being a smartass. I am asking for a reasonable, comprehensible definition of a term that was presented to me.


You say that you object to somebody telling you arbitrarily that something is a fire hazard.

Who is telling you this and what is it that they are telling you is a fire hazard and under what circumstances are they telling you this?

You're not being a smartass but you aren't giving us any context either.

Bottom line, however, it's the landlord's property. Whatever he perceives to be a fire hazard IS a fire hazard and you can be subject to eviction if you don't remedy it. Then you get the chance to go to court and defend yourself against the allegation by proving that the particular alleged fire hazard is not a fire hazard.

So, you see, having a list of fire hazards doesn't do you a darn bit of good because the list cannot possibly be all inclusive and just because something doesn't appear on the list doesn't mean that it isn't a fire hazard.

You have to address the specific fire hazard that you are alleged to have. Otherwise, I don't think anybody here can help you.

And to show you how difficult it is to answer your question, a definition of "fire hazard" does not appear in the International Fire Code although a definition has been proposed. Reading the proposed definition migh help you understand what a "fire hazard" could be even though there is no specific listing of fire hazards:

http://www.iccsafe.o...FC_ F2-F120.pdf

If you want, you can buy the NFPA13 which I believe classifies "fire hazards" and might give you more information:

http://www.nfpa.org/...3&cookie_test=1

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#12 chrijeff

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 09:20 AM

Bottom line, however, it's the landlord's property. Whatever he perceives to be a fire hazard IS a fire hazard and you can be subject to eviction if you don't remedy it. Then you get the chance to go to court and defend yourself against the allegation by proving that the particular alleged fire hazard is not a fire hazard.


So what you're saying is that I have to prove something isn't a fire hazard while not knowing what a fire hazard *is*. That's exacly why I subscribed to this list, to try to find out. If it's not going to work, I'll unsubscribe and you'll be rid of me.

#13 chrijeff

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 09:32 AM

You ask for context. I had two boxes on the landing outside my door. This is a landing about 5x12' (guesstimate). The boxes were said by my landlord to be "a fire hazard." I moved them, so they're not one anymore, but I want to know how they were a fire hazard. I read the definition and I don't see how they fit it. It states "For a situation [or, presumably, an object] to be a fire hazard it must either increase the potential of ignition, or increase the intensity of fire once it does ignite, or obstruct/hinder fire department operations, or obstruct/hinder occupant egress." These boxes didn't do either of the first two, and as *I* could get past them quite handily, why couldn't firefighters?

#14 adjusterjack

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 07:35 AM

You ask for context. I had two boxes on the landing outside my door. This is a landing about 5x12' (guesstimate). The boxes were said by my landlord to be "a fire hazard." I moved them, so they're not one anymore, but I want to know how they were a fire hazard. I read the definition and I don't see how they fit it. It states "For a situation [or, presumably, an object] to be a fire hazard it must either increase the potential of ignition, or increase the intensity of fire once it does ignite, or obstruct/hinder fire department operations, or obstruct/hinder occupant egress." These boxes didn't do either of the first two, and as *I* could get past them quite handily, why couldn't firefighters?


The reason that the two boxes are a "fire hazard" is right there in the definition:

"obstruct/hinder fire department operations, or obstruct/hinder occupant egress."

Two scenarios:

You wake up in the middle of the night with your apartment in flames. All you can think about is getting out. Your eyes are blurry from the smoke, you can't breathe, you're in pain from the flames. You make it to the door, open it to the chaos of fire department activity, you head for the stairs and trip over the boxes, fall head over heels down the stairs and die from the injuries you suffered because you left the boxes out there and didn't think about them in your panic.

You wake up in the middle of the night with your apartment in flames. All you can think about is getting out. Your eyes are blurry from the smoke, you can't breathe, you're in pain from the flames. You make it to the door. It's stuck because of the heat. You can't open it. You are seconds away from being engulfed in flames. Firemen are rushing up the stairs. They waste those seconds getting your boxes out of the way of their equipment. You die.

Still don't think those boxes are fire hazards?

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.





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