Dear Maintenance Men (April 2024)

Last Updated: April 5, 2024By

Dear Maintenance Men:
I am a new rental property owner. What are the smoke detector and carbon Monoxide requirements? I want to make sure the detectors are installed in their proper locations.

Dear Cody:
Here is a quick rundown of the proper locations for both the smoke and Co2 detector locations.

Smoke Detectors are required to be mounted on the ceiling or wall and located as specified below.
* Outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of bedrooms.
* In each room used for sleeping purposes.
* Dwellings or dwelling units with split levels and without an intervening door between the
adjacent levels, a smoke alarm installed on the upper level shall suffice for the adjacent lower
level provided that the lower level is less than one full story below the upper level.
* Smoke alarms shall be installed not less than 3 feet (914mm) horizontally from the door or
opening of a bathroom that contains a bathtub or shower unless this would prevent placement
of a smoke alarm.

Carbon Monoxide alarms are required to be mounted on the wall or ceiling or other location as specified in the manufacture’s installation instructions and located as specified below.
* Outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of bedrooms.
* On every occupiable level of the dwelling unit including basements.
* Where a fuel-burning appliance is located within a bedroom or its attached bathroom, a carbon
monoxide alarm shall be installed within the bedroom.

Dear Maintenance Men:
I am starting my planning for a major kitchen cabinet remodeling project in my rental units. However, I am having a difficult time making material and design decisions. What recommendations can you give?

Dear Allen,
When doing a kitchen or bath material selection, cohesive and functional design is important. Kitchen and bath rehabs are some of the most expensive work you can do in an apartment unit and proper planning is a must. In order to appeal to a larger segment of the population, try to keep the interior color scheme to neutral earth tones. Cabinetry quality varies greatly. Don’t let the cabinet fronts fool you. Manufactures designed their cabinets to look good at first glance. Keep in mind, being in a rental environment, the cabinets also need to hold up to abuse. Look at the actual construction of the cabinet box or frame. Keep in mind; you do not need to use custom cabinets to fit your existing layout. The use of prefabricated modular cabinetry can greatly reduce the time and cost of custom finished kitchen or bathroom cabinets. Using real wood cabinet fronts with 3/8” plywood sides is essential for durability. The drawer fronts and sides should be connected with a dovetail or other positive lock construction. Drawers that are held together by nails or cabinets built with particle board will not hold up to tenant abuse.

On a side note, if you are gutting the kitchen or bathroom, use this time to relocate and add more electrical outlets and under cabinet lighting.

Dear Maintenance Men:
I have been replacing rusted and dented HVAC vents and electrical wall receptacles in a rental unit. However, they don’t look right. There are a lot of gaps between the vents and plates and the wall. Some of the walls are not perfectly flat or the texture is bumpy. How do I make these installs more professional looking?

Dear Julien:
Caulk is your friend and caulk will hide a multitude of sins! On a job like this we recommend getting a squeeze tube of painter’s caulk. Squeezable caulk tubes are readily available at any hardware or home center. Cut a small angle off the tip of the tube. Best to make the cut about 45 degrees. You want to open the tube just enough to get about an eighth inch thick line of caulk out of the tube. Run this caulk line all around the vents and wall plates edges. Gently run your finger along the caulk line pressing it into place. Any excess caulk can be removed with a damp paper towel. Once done, your vents and plates will look like they are part of the wall and will look very professional.

Rental Humor: What is the difference between an Apartment Building and an Office Building … Not much anymore! (Apartments are converting to home offices and Offices are converting to apartments.)

WE NEED Maintenance Questions!!!    If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men:” column, please send in your questions to:

If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment, please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. at 714 956-8371 

Written by Frank Alvarez and Jerry L’Ecuyer, Buffalo Maintenance

Frank Alvarez is licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance & construction for over 30 years. Frankie is President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and a lecturer, educational instructor and Chair of the Education Committee of the AAOC.  He is also Chairman of the Product Service Counsel.  Frank can be reached at (714) 956-8371 For more info please go to:

Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker. He is currently a Director Emeritus and Past President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and past Chairman of the association’s Education Committee.  Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.




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