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Do you need to worry about shutting down alarm system services / ISC schedule - still time to host a round table
July 7, 2021

ISC round tables
            I have round table discussion groups scheduled for July 19, 20 and 21.  Please contact Stacy Spector,Esq at 516 747 6700 x 304 or to reserve a spot or initiate your own round table discussion group [we have a few timeslot openings as of now on Wednesday July 21]
Confirmed round tables:
Monday July 19 from 2-3pm Ron Davis - discussion on selling and listing with broker
Tuesday July 20 from 11 am to 12pm Troy Iverson, Avantguard.  Central station issues and what's new at Avantguard
Tuesday July 20 from 2-3pm  Mitch Reitman.  Selling, taxes and structuring issues
Tuesday July 20 from 4-5PM Morgan Hertel, Rapid Response.  What's new at Rapid and exciting in central station operations
Wednesday July 21 from 10 -11am.  Shawn Iverson, The Insurance Center.  E&O coverage and insurance issues for alarm industry
Wednesday  July 21 from 2-3pm  Open
Wednesday July 21 from 4-5 pm  Open
Do you need to worry about shutting down alarm system services
          Regarding your comment: "you can turn off the monitoring but you have to leave the subscriber with a local system if the system is owned by the subscriber."
          Is there relevant case law or statute that supports your recommendation? I assume there is and was curious to learn more about what that was. Thanks!
          Formal legal research is a bit beyond what’s expected on this forum, so I’ll respond by providing further elaboration with some general comments on the law of contracts.
          Certainly one threshold issue is understanding the relationship between the alarm dealer and customer.  Generally that relationship is defined by contract because only in a rare situation will an alarm company have a duty owed to a non-contracting party. Alarm services should not be confused with utility services; they are not the same.  Utility services are governed by tariffs which are governmental regulations.  A utility company may not be permitted to shut off service, such as electric or water, without court order or some regulatory permission. 
          While alarm companies are not governed by tariffs they may be subject to laws affecting their services.  Fire is the most common, especially in a commercial premises where the fire alarm has been installed pursuant to approved plans, permits, inspection and approval by the AHJ, typically the Fire Marshal.  Some jurisdictions prohibit the termination of alarm monitoring or removal of an installed fire alarm without the same formality that was required for the installation.  This can pit the alarm company who wants to be paid for its services against the Fire Marshal who claims the authority to require the services be continued even though the customer isn’t paying for the services.  Who’s right?  Well in a recent confrontation involving this very issue the alarm company backed down because it wanted to maintain good relations with the Fire Marshal, which I agree is a good idea.  But let’s put the fire alarm issue aside.
          The issue is your authority to shut down services for customer default.  Contract law dictates that a party is excused from further performance if the other contracting party defaults.  You don’t have to continue providing your service if the customer defaults, and that can mean non-payment or other defaults under the alarm contract. 
Providing continued services does not however permit you to completely disable the alarm system if it is capable of working without your continued services.  For example, a local alarm can still work if monitoring is terminated to the extent that it can sound a local alarm if activated.
          On a sale the alarm system, once installed, belongs to the customer.  Think of a TV streaming service who isn’t paid.  All of a sudden you can’t access the streaming service, but your TV still turns on and you may be able to get other shows or use the DVR.  If alarm monitoring is not being paid for why should you be able to shut down the alarm so that it is entirely useless?  You can’t.
          There are also alarm conditions where you shouldn’t deactivate without notice and maybe even some legal authority, like a court order. Keep in mind that alarm contracts are usually generic, so that the same contract is used for an intrusion alarm, panic alarm and environmental alarm.  It’s the environmental alarm that I am thinking about where shutting it down may have foreseeable consequences, not just possible consequences.  For example, you shut off intrusion monitoring, but there it’s unlikely that an intrusion will occur before the customer can take other means to provide security.  But what if you’re monitoring temperature or other environmental condition.  One of my first defense cases was an alarm company who monitored lobster water tanks.  In that case the alarm failed to detect that the water tanks stopped circulating, but it could have been that the alarm company intentionally shut down the monitoring because of non-payment.  While the alarm company would have been within its contractual rights to shut off the monitoring, even without notice, the consequences of that action may weight against such action.  In my case the lobsters all died overnight.  Some of you may monitor ventilators, freezing temperatures, heat temperatures, air movement, water movement.  Even in these sensitive situations you will have the right to terminate continued services, such as monitoring, but depending on the circumstances you should provide some notice so the customer has the opportunity to find substitute services.
          First determine if your services are covered by any law or regulation;  then figure out your obligations and rights under your contract; finally apply some common sense and sometimes compassion, just in case you have to answer to the AHJ.
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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC

Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301
516 747 6700