If you want to use a BBQ grill at an apartment in Houston, you might fret over whether you might get in trouble with the local fire department—or even the police—for doing so. Your instinct is right, as several laws and regulations govern the use of various types of grills under different circumstances. To help you figure out whether a grill will be permitted at your apartment, we’ll take a look at the relevant statutes and parts of the fire code which the Houston fire department has laid out for curious residents.
First, there are general rules for open-flame cooking devices, which include any typical BBQ grill with an exposed flame. If you live in apartment buildings with no sprinklers, you’re immediately limited in even what sort of grill you can store, much less use, on your patio or balcony; tenants are only allowed to store charcoal-type pits and tabletop-style propane gas grills that use no more than a 2.5 lbs. propane cylinder. Storing your BBQ grill inside your unit is also explicitly banned.
Your apartment lease contract can even go a step further and prohibit using such cooking devices on balconies or within 10 feet of the building. Most apartments forbid you from operating open flame and LPG (liquified petroleum gas) cooking devices on or within 10 feet of anything combustible, which includes most building materials. The only exceptions are smaller apartments, such as one- or two-family buildings and apartment buildings protected by automatic sprinkler systems.
However, grills are often permitted in areas that are at least 10 feet away from your patio. Your apartment may also allow you to store certain types of grills on your patio that can be rolled away from the building for use.
Outside of these scant rules, your lease and apartment manager ultimately determine your ability to use an open flame cooking device. If they allow you to store and cook with a grill within 10 feet of an apartment building, you’re operating within the Houston fire code.
If your apartment strictly prohibits BBQ grills, you still have options for cooking as most of these regulations are about open flame grills and the threat of combustion from open flames or petroleum products. Alternatively, Houston’s fire code and ordinances are open to interpretation regarding electric grills.
Of course, your apartment’s owners might still have opinions on the matter. However, there are significantly fewer regulations about electric grills. Some of them are even safe for use in your home, much less on your balcony or in a public space near your apartment.
Effective fire protection systems allow the most leeway for everyone. Apartment owners who want to allow tenants to barbecue at home can ensure safety and legality by implementing appropriate sprinkler systems in all relevant spaces, which is the best practice under any circumstance.
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