Local Politics

Gardendale Fire Marshal Concerned About Short-Term Rental Safety

The hotly debated topic over the last week in Gardendale has centered around whether the City of Gardendale should allow homeowners to provide rentals to short-term renters, even in areas zoned as residential, or ban them?

The agenda for tonight’s 6:30pm Planning and Zoning Commission meeting shows that the Gardendale City Building Inspection Department is asking the commission “for a favorable recommendation to the city council to amend Zoning Ordinance No. 2013-02, to establish short-term rental regulations.”

However, there is no mention in the agenda for a “ban” from the Gardendale Building Inspector, Fire Department or Fire Marshal.

In a memo dated May 1st from Gardendale Fire Chief Joe Thomas and Fire Marshal, Captain Adam Crain, both ask Jack Fields, Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, to consider specific examples of the differences between “typical residential house” occupancies as to safety and “R-1 transient occupancies” the latter of which would include short-term rentals.

The memo is signed by Fire Marshal Crane only.

Short-Term rentals (R-1 transient occupancies) involve rentals for terms less than 30-days.

Below is taken from public records of the memo (in bold) that is considered Exhibit A in the meetings agenda.

A typical residential house is defined in the International Fire Code as a Residential Group R-3. Occupancies that are built and designed as single-family dwellings feature limited,life safe.ty protection systems due to the idea that the occupant has increased knowledge and familiarity with the layout of the structure. The International Fire Code defines Residential Group R-1 as a building or structure that contains sleeping units where the occupants are primarily transient in nature.

The R-1, transient occupancies, that house persons for less than 30-days, are equipped with increased protection systems due to the occupants decreased amount of knowledge and familiarity of the structure. The look or zoning of the occupancies do not define the protections, more so, the usage of the occupancy is the determining factor.

The recent trend of single-family residential structures being listed and rented as a short-term rental, being used transiently, leaves overnight guests at an increased life safety risk. Therefore, to properly protect guests during over-night stays at unfamiliar spaces, occupancies that operate as short-term rentals require increased protection systems like other transient occupancies.

The fire department makes the following recommendations that every short-term rental must meet applicable building and fire codes and the following safety standards:

  • 24-hour monitored, interconnected smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors with visual and audible notification, that meet all standards set forth in the most recent life safety and building codes adopted by the
  • Operable egress windows in sleeping
  • Proper handrails and
  • GFIC/Arc-Fault protection where required by the National Electrical Code adopted by the City.
  • Fire extinguisher(s) in accessible areas of the Kitchen, garage, and laundry
  • Properly displayed 9-1-1 address on the structure and
  • Emergency Lighting with battery backup throughout egress areas

All criteria shall be inspected and satisfactory prior to issuance of license or permit to operate and are subject to annual inspections thereafter.