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Carbon Monoxide, Smoke Detectors & Property Management

Web Admin - Friday, November 07, 2014

Article recently shared by NARPM and Mr. Re-Key

So, what’s all the “buzz” over the new smoke alarm law?

With literally dozens of laws passed each year relating to real estate, one might wonder if we really need any more legislation, restraints, requirements, and ways to feed some sector of the economy?  The new requirements of California SB1394 and SB745 in particular place another load of responsibility and liability onto the shoulders of the owner (or the owner’s agent) of rented or leased property by way of new smoke alarm legislation. 

Thinking in terms of saving lives, however, the new requirements for smoke alarms do make sense.  Cal Fire states that nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no working smoke alarms.  Smoke alarm manufacturers assert that the new style of smoke alarm may save consumers over $40 in replacement batteries over the life of each alarm in their homes.   California is not alone in demonstrating their concern for Americans.  Five other states and an additional 6 major cities have enacted similar legislation in recent years.

First, consider a few facts about smoke alarms.  Whether battery operated or hardwired, the smoke alarm device typically lasts only 10 years.  If you have units in your home or rental properties that are older than 10 years, chances are they are inoperable.   “But the test button emits an annoying noise when I push it,” one may argue.  The test button is only testing that the battery has more life.  It does not test operability of the device itself.  To test the device, you must have smoke – a can of smoke is the safe smoke to use.  It can be found on-line or at your favorite home improvement store for only a few dollars, and it will last for years.

For safety’s sake and to reduce your liability in the case of rental management, make sure your hardwired units have a battery backup.   In the case of a power outage, the hardwired smoke alarm is not going to detect smoke if there is no power and no battery backup.  While you are bringing your property up to code, consider spending a few dollars more to ensure your hardwired units are protecting you as well as protecting your tenant.

Finally, new legislation is applicable only to battery operated smoke alarm devices.  Also note that existing alarms need not be replaced unless the alarm is inoperable (be sure to test both ways, with the test button and with the canned smoke).   With all that being said, below is a summary of the requirements of SB 1394 and its subsequent changes via SB 745. 


January 1, 2014 - The owner of all single-family and multi-family dwellings that are rented or leased shall be responsible for testing and maintaining smoke alarms.  At the time of a new tenancy, the owner shall insure that the smoke alarms are operable.  If a building permit is issued on or after January 1, 2014 for alterations, repairs, or additions exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), the permit issuer shall not sign off on the completion of work until the permittee demonstrates that all smoke alarms required for the dwelling unit are in compliance with Section 13114.


July 1, 2014 - Smoke alarms or combination alarms (smoke and carbon monoxide) that are replaced because they are inoperable, must be replaced with a new model that contains the non-replaceable, non-removable battery that will last 10 years.  One exception:   If an older model smoke alarm device is already in the inventory of an owner, managing agent, contractor, wholesaler, or retailer, on or before July 1, 2014, this older model may be installed up until July 1, 2015. 


January 1, 2015 - Battery operated smoke alarms units installed after this date must comply with the following:

  • Date of manufacture displayed
  • Date of installation displayed
  • Incorporate a hush feature
  • Contain a non-removable10-year battery


January 1, 2016 - Additional alarms must be installed, as needed, to ensure compliance with the current building standards.  Currently, the California Building Code requires: 

  • One smoke alarm on each story and in the basement. 
  • One smoke alarm in each bedroom. 
  • An additional alarm in each hallway and/or stairway that leads directly to the sleeping areas. 


A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a maximum fine of two hundred dollars ($200).

Safety tips for your maintenance checklist:

  • Replace battery operated and hardwired units every 10 years.  Smoke alarms don’t last forever.
  • Inspect, test and clean smoke alarms at least once every year.  Test not only the battery, but also with canned smoke to insure the device is operable. 
  • Never paint over a smoke alarm.
  • In addition to knowing your local building code, read the manufacturer’s instructions for placement recommendations.
  • To reduce your liability as a Property Manager, consider hiring a contractor for installation and maintenance issues relating to smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.


Contributed by:  Julie Kern, Mr. Rekey Locksmith of San Diego. 

Mr. Rekey Locksmith is America’s Largest Residential Locksmith with 2 locations in California.  North Bay San Francisco and San Diego.

For helpful information on how to properly test smoke alarms see Mr. Rekey Locksmith’s video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGKy3B_E730

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