Eds Note: Jim asked for the week off, so I had to dock his pay. I’m tough but fair. So, we will let Dr. Rent stir things up a bit first this week.
By: Dr. Rent
On Friday, a handful of landlords met with representatives from the Fire Dept. and Alderperson Hadley (chair of the Public Safety committee) to discuss smoke detectors. It was a GREAT discussion and it looks like we are moving in a direction where everyone will be satisfied with the result.
Before we left, the Fire Dept (FD) asked our opinions as landlords on the open burning issue that has received a great deal of attention. (For those of you new to the issue, open burning in things such as recreational fire pits is not allowed in city limits. However, it is allowed in many neighboring communities such as the Town of Wausau, Weston, and Rib Mountain.)
This is one of those very rare times when personally, I feel what is good for the goose should be kept comfortably away from the gander.
As a home owner, I support small, recreational fires. I currently live in the Town of Wausau, and before that in Knowlton (south of Mosinee). I had a nice fire pit by my old place, and got the fire pit for this house started before the snow came. However, as a landlord, I am NOT in favor of fire pits and recreational burning at rental properties.
The FD asked us because it appears that Wausau is trying to draft a recreational fire ordinance. They wanted our opinion on not having fire pits for buildings with 3 or more units. We all thought that is a great idea.
It is a common belief (that is not too far off the truth) that IN GENERAL, renters do not take as good of care of properties as owner-occupants. That is a general statement. There are many renters that actually take great care of their units, treating them better than if they owned them. And, there are owners who will let there place run down. However, the average renter does not care as much as the average home owner.
At one of my rural Weston duplexes, the tenants had put in a fire ring (of course without my permission). I don’t know which made me more upset: that they did that; that they did it right over the main water line going into the house (making the ground more shallow there and subject to freezing), or that it was less than 6’ from the house (with slightly melted siding to prove it).
I don’t think that everyone should be able to have a fire pit for safety reasons. The fire pit should be safe distance from the house, outbuildings, overhanging trees and other combustible items. It should also be far enough from a property line to not cause too big of an issue with neighbors. If your lot is big enough to meet these criteria, then why not?
The FD brought up the harmful effects of the smoke, but really I don’t see that as an issue. How many fires would be burning at one time? Wausau with fire pits is not going to look like a big campground with 200 fires in a 35 acre area. When I come home from work in the winter, I can smell the wood fires from wood stoves and fireplaces. Surely, there are more wood heating units putting smoke in the air at one time than there ever will be bonfires at any one time.
Basically, I am in favor of having small, recreational fires as long as they can be done in a safe manner. However, I don’t think that rental properties should be able to have them.
Write this down… I am in support of something for home owners but have a different opinion when it comes to renters rights. This is a rare occasion and don’t get used to it.