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MA- Fire Dept inspection

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  • MA- Fire Dept inspection

    Hi, first time poster here and inexperienced owner of a very small self storage facility here with a question. I apologize If this is a standard question but I cannot seem to find the answer anywhere.

    The fire department in my city is asking me to open all the currently rented units for a fire inspection.

    Firstly, I’d like to ask if this a normal practice for you managers/owners out there? My tenants lock their own units and therefore I don’t have access to the units unless they open them or I cut the lock. I can try to speak to my tenants individually and ask them for access but I imagine it would be difficult to organize everyone to open their units for this one day inspection.

    The Fire Dept. wants to ensure there aren’t any hazardous materials being stored. I feel like this is an overreach from them but I’m not sure if this is standard.

    Thanks for any help.

  • #2
    Definitely sounds like overreach. When they do my annual fire inspections, he checks the tags on all extinguishers, checks all emergency lighting (exit signs, etc.), makes sure we still use the same key in Knox box, checks for any obstructions. and things of that nature. It clearly states in our lease that tenants are not permitted to store those types of items you've listed, but as you stated, we don't have a master key to verify that. Try calling the fire marshal to inquire about this. Also, in order to access tenants' units, we have to give advance notice unless it is an emergency situation. Call their bluff on it, is my opinion. Keep us updated!


    • #3
      I've never heard of an inspector asking for this. I would suggest to join your state self-storage association and see if they will intervene on your behalf.

      I normally would cooperate with fire and please as much as possible, but complying with this on a regular basic would upend the entire self-storage business model of not having a key to every unit.

      Is there something more going on here? Do your competitors allow this?
      Last edited by Steve_hajewski; 8 September 2020, 07:47 AM.


      • #4
        What's next, demanding you open your home garage for the same inspection? Checking under your sink for poison?
        "Never let the inmates run the asylum!"


        • #5
          I would tell them they would require a separate warrant for each unit outside of your control they would like access to. Othrwise they are free to inspect the common areas that you have access to.


          • #6
            No. In 10+ years of annual inspections, I've never opened a customer unit for them. I don't have access. Period.

            They can inspect the rest of the property and that's all I have control over. If they want in customer units, I'd make THEM schedule appointments with each customer at the convenience of the customer.

            Call a couple other local facilities to see if they have ever been asked to do this and if so, how they handled it.


            • #7
              Ask to see the town's statute that states they will need to have this access.
              It's not there!
              Don't put off until tomorrow, what you can do today.


              • #8
                That's about the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time! And even if you were somehow able to get every tenant's key and a signed waiver form from all of them, is the fire department really going to rummage through every box, tote, container, etc. in every unit? Oh, and move heavy items/furniture out of the way to access blocked areas of the unit? They'll be there for a few months!

                How many units are we talking about?


                • #9
                  No, I have never heard that request and I have been here almost 18 years. They walk the property and check the fire extinguishers and the Knox box and give us the inspection report.

                  I am sure that customers don't want the FD checking their unit but IF they were able to coordinate with each individual tenant it would take days to go through everyone's boxes and unit. It sounds odd that they'd want to do that.
                  The future depends on what you do in the present.


                  • #10
                    Sounds more like a Fire Department on a "power trip".
                    "Never let the inmates run the asylum!"


                    • #11
                      It sounds like they're sending a rookie firefighter who has never done this kind of inspection and they have no idea how self storage works. I had a new guy come by and find stuff that older vets had never even blinked at on their inspections.
                      "Carpe the HECK out of this diem."
                      WA state


                      • #12
                        Something does not seem right. They should only need access to a unit if it has some type of safety/fire detection device inside the unit (for inspection or to clear an alarm that was activated - all clear).

                        It is possible this was a new inspector and did not understand the scope of the inspection (in this person's head there may be no difference from one commercial property to the next - in an office building, it would be nothing to ask to inspect all the rooms - not just public access, but storage and mechanical rooms).

                        As mentioned, to open a unit for no reason other than to inspect what is inside would require a warrant (in my state), without the tenant's permission.

                        Make sure all your health/safety/fire equipment is in working order and the necessary tag's and paperwork are current (exit lights with backup batteries working, clear signage (not faded), fire extinguishers look good and tagged, exit doors not blocked, FD/PD key access works, etc.) - they may have to find something to write up or to take corrective action on.

                        Make sure to get a business card or name and badge number and copies of any paperwork - they should also be wearing FD workshirt/polo and driving FD vehicle (they should be on the clock).

                        I do not want to think this person is a bad apple or using the position for something personal, but that is a possibility.


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