Grilling & Fire Pit Rules in Your Association

Understand the rules & how they could affect your insurance.

May 25, 2017Minnesota

Many insurance carriers are no longer willing to provide an insurance proposal when they discover charcoal and/or gas grilling is allowed on decks and balconies. Even if it is allowed by a local city ordinance, some underwriting guidelines include an automatic “decline” if grilling (especially charcoal) is allowed on decks. Grilling on a concrete patio slab, a safe distance from any structure, is typically acceptable.

In many towns and cities, this practice is prohibited by local ordinance or by adoption of Appendix H in the 2007 Minnesota State Fire Code (MFSC). The fire code does not prohibit barbecue grills on balconies and patios of multi-family occupancies unless the local governing body has formally adopted MSFC (07) Appendix H.

Minnesota State Fire Code Apprendix H 
1.1 Open Flame Prohibited. In any structure containing three or more dwelling units, no person shall kindle, maintain, or cause any fire or open flame on any balcony above ground level, or on any ground floor patio within 15 feet of structure.

1.2 Fuel Storage Prohibited. No person shall store or use any fuel, barbecue, torch, or other similar heating or lighting chemical or device in the locations designated in Section 1.1.

Exception: Listed electric or gas-fired barbecue grills that are permanently mounted and wired or plumbed to the building’s gas supply or electrical system and that maintain a minimum clearance of 18 inches on all sides, unless listed for lesser clearances, may be installed on balconies and patios when approved by the chief.

To determine if an ordinance regulating open fires on balconies or patios has been adopted in your community, contact your local fire marshal or fire department. If one has not been adopted, then your association may have created its own grilling regulations. Cities vary considerably in their written regulations, so be sure to ask for a copy of specific fire codes.

Safety Tips 
If your association allows grilling, take precautions to prevent a fire. Make sure you store and maintain grilling equipment properly in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Never use your grill indoors. Charcoal briquettes should be stored in a dry area – damp or wet charcoal is able to spontaneously heat once dried. Charcoal lighter fluid should be properly stored away from living areas of the home. Propane cylinders should be stored outside at least 20 feet from building openings such as windows and doors.

Fire Pits 
Most insurance carriers strongly discourage or prohibit the installation of fire pits in community associations. Fire pits created for recreational use using wood or charcoal cause great concern to insurance companies due to the lack of control in distance, fire protection and administrative procedures. Barrels, fire rings or mobile fire pits tend to be moved which further decreases the level of control. The more permanent the structure, the better the level of control in managing the location and scope of the fire. Natural gas fueled fire log arrangements on a concrete or NC pad (non-wood burning) with adequate separation from structures, and a timer to limit use may be approved. The association should always obtain prior approval from their insurance carrier before allowing the installation of a fire pit.

Something to Think About 
To find out if your association allows grilling on decks, balconies, or patios, check your governing documents, including the Rules and Regulations section. Many homeowner associations prohibit charcoal and/or gas grilling. If your association currently allows grilling on decks and balconies, it may be something to discuss at your next board meeting. A change in your grilling rule could possibly increase your number of proposal options at your next insurance renewal.