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Who owns the fire alarm system / CS webinars 2020 series

June 29 2020
Central Station* 2020 webinar series starts July 13, 2020.  K&K will be hosting webinars by central stations, one at a time, who will address "why you should be using our central station".  Each webinar will be approximately 20 minutes and then Q&A opportunity.  See what your central station has to offer or what others offer, enabling you to choose the right central station for you.  
You should be using a central station listed on The Alarm Exchange to be assured of quality and more importantly, accountability
  *  only central stations on The Alarm Exchange will be invited to participate
Register Now for the CS webinar series: 
AvantGuard Monitoring Centers - July 13, 2020
UCC – United Central Control - July 14, 2020
Rapid Response - July 15, 2020
Dispatch Center - July 16, 2020
Statewide Central Station - July 17, 2020 
Affiliated Monitoring - July 20, 2020

Who owns the fire alarm system
            There is one very large company in California, that their standard language in the contract is that ALL the fire equipment belongs to them, and that if the subscriber changes Monitoring company  they will need to collect their equipment.
            Question: I understand if they take out the (DMP...) GSM, but can they also take the Fire Control Panels...??
            In my case, it is a multi-unit property with several systems.  Can their contract superseded the real-estate law regarding items that once installed belong to the building?
            The answer is not as easy as it should be.  Alarm equipment, even fire alarm equipment, is installed pursuant to a sale or lease.  The proper contracts are either the Fire All in One or the Fire All in One Lease.  If the lease is used then the equipment and all components installed by the alarm company remain the property of the alarm company.  The equipment and components [and that includes the wire] is removable at the end of the lease, whether by expiration of the term of the lease or breach of the lease.  
            You refer to “real-estate law” that would call for a contrary conclusion, but you don’t specify the law you are concerned about.  I am hard pressed to believe that a law would provide that leased personal property, once installed in a premise, becomes part of the realty and cannot be removed.  
            Would that same analysis apply to a TV that’s leased; once plugged in it can’t be removed?  How about a washer/dryer?  How about lighting fixtures?  Flooring?  Decorative doors?  
            To be effective a lease must be written correctly to remain just that, a lease.  It’s easy to make a mistake in contract language so that the subscriber does in fact have possessory rights, maybe even title, to the equipment.  But if worded properly there is no reason that personal property cannot retain that classification and be removed.  
            A fire alarm system would have to fall into that gray area where a fixture can be deemed personalty or part of the real property.  If truly a toss-up, the contract between the parties [a lease is a contract] can govern the issue.  Fire alarm equipment is removable without tearing apart the building structure.  Even wiring can be removed without causing damage to the building.  
            But the analysis doesn’t end there because the fire alarm wasn’t installed without AHJ approval, and probably can’t be removed without AHJ involvement.  Note that I say “involvement” rather than “approval”.  An AHJ may require notice of termination of fire alarm service.  The AHJ may require notice that a mandatory fire alarm is being removed.  But can the AHJ or building owner prevent the removal?  I think the answer will depend on a lot of variables which change the scenario and ultimately the answer.  [I invite the great legal mind of AFA’s Chief Legal Counsel to opine, because AFA does a lot of fire alarm leasing].  
            NFPA may have guidelines for fire alarm removal [I don’t know] and if the guidelines get adopted as building codes there may be a conflict with the law and the lease.  
            How does this issue manifest itself in real life?  Well, as we have here, a fire alarm company is trying to take over a subscriber and retain the existing equipment.  The owner also wants to retain the fire alarm equipment.  If the lease is worded properly I believe the fire alarm remains the property of the alarm company and can be removed.  Does this lock the owner into a permanent relationship with the existing fire alarm company and lock out fire alarm company competitors?  Yes; that’s the point of the lease.

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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