Sometimes a security company gets caught in the middle when there is a dispute between a client and the local AHJ (authority having jurisdiction). In one such incident, the AHJ sent a letter to a customer stating that unless action was taken responder services would cease. This raised key questions. Should the alarm company stay out of it and let the customer and AHJ deal with it? Should the company notify the customer in any way that dispatching will not occur in the event of a suspension?
According to this scenario, only the subscriber received a notice threatening suspension of municipal response services unless some corrective action is taken. That action could involve an electronic alarm system or something else, like failure to pay a fee and obtain a permit. Perhaps the alarm company did not get any notice of the impending suspension because the AHJ didn’t know about the company or what its responsibility was for an alarm system once installed. And the problem may not relate to the installation.
If the alarm company has a continuing relationship with the subscriber after the installation (which it should to maximize the value of that account, such as equipment leasing, service and monitoring), then the subscriber should notify the alarm company of the AHJ notice. The contractual relationship will then dictate what responsibility the alarm company has and any action that should be taken.
There may be issues raised by the AHJ that should involve the alarm company, though in most of these situations the AHJ should know who the alarm company is and notice should be provided to the alarm company. A good example would be a commercial fire installation. The alarm company filed plans and obtained a permit; it’s on record with the AHJ and there is no reason that any issue involving the installation should not be directed or at least copied to the alarm company.
Where an alarm system is installed and later after inspection the AHJ decides the system needs to comply with a new law that mandates smoke or carbon monoxide (CO) devices, then it’s not the alarm company’s responsibility. That equipment was not included in the initial installation.
Same with a new law that requires annual inspections. If the subscriber has not contracted for that service then the alarm company has no responsibility to provide the inspection service. If the inspection requirement comes about after the installation, then the alarm company would not have any obligation at all, even if it is monitoring the system. Of course, for better customer relations and business opportunity the alarm company would normally notify the customer that additional services are now required, and the alarm company is willing to provide those services.
It’s hard to believe a municipal fire department or EMT would ignore a call. In any event, standard form contracts clearly address this issue and provide that the alarm company is not responsible for municipal response or suspension of response, and the subscriber is still responsible to pay for ongoing monitoring charges or lease payments.
Despite the contract provision, however, if the suspension of municipal services is directly related to something the alarm company was under contract or law to provide or perform, the “come hell or high water” payment provision will not hold up. The subscriber will be able to terminate payment and perhaps the contract if the alarm company has failed to perform a contractual or legal duty. An example would be failure to obtain a permit (the contract should provide that the alarm company will procure any required permit, at the subscriber’s expense).
Ken Kirschenbaum has been a recognized counsel to the alarm industry for 35 years and is principal of Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, P.C. (www.kirschenbaumesq.com). His team of attorneys, which includes daughter Jennifer, specialize in transactional, defense litigation, regulatory compliance and collection matters.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of SSI, and not intended as legal advice.
Legal Briefing With Ken Kirschenbaum
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