Having been a renter my entire adult life I have, on numerous occasions, had my homes and businesses invaded by strangers under the guise of keeping me safe. Rental properties, in most places, are required to submit to regular safety inspections from the local fire authorities. Having recently been through a house fire here in Iowa City, Iowa which I put out myself, I can tell you, that promise of safety is a hot load.
The fire in my home recently began at the breaker box. This electrical junction not only passed its original inspection, it has passed every ‘safety check’ over the decades since it was installed. That is despite the fact the breaker box was a clear danger, with multiple circuits ‘piggy-backed’ onto single breakers and running an electrical load beyond what it was intended for.Besides that the entire house contains old wiring and outlets without grounds. If a home were built today, these issues would simply not be allowed. Laws prevent such shoddy work from being passed by fire inspectors because they are hazardous. Yet somehow the same scenario is somehow pronounced ‘safe’ in older buildings. This makes it clear that the safety standards are not in place to protect lives, but to protect property owners and insurers while putting the lives and property of tenants in danger.
During the fire inspections I have experienced, there are always complains against the tenant. That extension cord is dangerous, or this flammable item is too close to this appliance, etc. While those may indeed be fire issues, they are nowhere near as severe as structural issues that are the responsibility of the property owner. Yet not once have I ever seen an inspector chastise the owners over safety conditions inherent in the building itself.
This is because they are not inspecting to protect tenants, they are inspecting to protect the landlord. They are protecting the landlord’s property from tenant misuse, while ignoring the property and lives of the tenants.They are also protecting insurance companies. When fire inspectors pass a property as safe, that becomes legal evidence that the property was safe, which works in court against tenants who have lost property or lives in fires. This is in the best interest of the homeowner and insurers, but again, the tenant is completely screwed by the system.In the case of my home, the bad electrical infrastructure was legal because it was ‘grandfathered in’. That is to say, despite the fact that it is objectively dangerous, it is allowed because it was that way before the code against the dangers it presents was written. This works out for cheap landlords who wanna suck every dollar possible out of their property. It protects them from the expense of updating and of potential lawsuits.
In effect, fire inspections are not only failing to keep us safe, they are endangering lives by creating legal loopholes that allow property owners and insurers to get away with unsafe practices. This is more evidence of how inept government is at doing its most basic job, protecting the lives and property of citizens. What it does instead is to create and then protect the upper classes from the lower ones, while pummeling the latter under its boot.
Check out my CopBlock.org article:
Are Comparisons Between Police and Fire Departments Misleading?
…where I discuss more issues with the much misguidedly beloved municipal fire services.