By Jonathan H. Katz, Esq.

Do your community association’s governing documents ban the use of charcoal and propane grills in your community? Does your association have a resolution in place regarding grill safety and, if so, is it enforced? Are your residents and neighbors aware of the New Jersey regulations regarding grill safety? If your answer to any of the questions above is no, this blog post is for you…

In 2010, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that there were 5,168 grill-related injuries that were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms across the country. And that number does not account for the countless other unreported fires and injuries. Likewise, the National Fire Protection Association estimates that during the years of 2005 to 2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 8,200 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues per year, including an average of 3,400 structural fires and 4,800 outside fires. More than one-quarter (29%) of the structural fires involving grills started on a courtyard, terrace or patio, 28% started on an exterior balcony or open porch, while only 6% started in the kitchen. And these 8,200 fires caused an annual average of 15 deaths, 120 injuries and $75 million in direct property damage.

In order to protect against grill-related injuries, New Jersey has promulgated regulations under the Uniform Fire Code. These regulations provide that charcoal burners, portable liquid propane (LP) cooking equipment and other open-flame cooking devices such as barbecue grills and outdoor fireplaces shall not be stored or used on:

(1) any porch, balcony, or any other portion of the building;

(2) within any room or space of a building;

(3) within five (5) feet of any combustible exterior wall;

(4) within five (5) feet, vertically or horizontally, of any opening in any wall; or

(5) under any building overhang.

Associations should also consult with their local township and fire officials so as to be aware of any more stringent ordinances or regulations enacted by their municipality with respect to charcoal or LP grills or other outdoor grills, as some municipalities consider natural gas grills to be covered by these regulations while others do not.

Further, association boards and management should review their governing documents to determine whether grills (charcoal, propane or otherwise) are restricted or banned within an association. If grills are prohibited, the association should be diligent in enforcing these restrictions as failure to do so could lead to significant fines, increased insurance costs and (most importantly) a fire in the community. Associations without restrictions, either in their governing documents or by resolution, should consult with counsel to determine what can be done to ensure compliance with the law and overall grill safety.

If you have a question about grill safety or any other issue concerning your community association, please contact one of our Community Associations attorneys.