April 13, 2012
Homeowners Balk at Alarm System Registration Fees and Stiff Penalties
All across the US, there are more cities, town and counties implementing alarm registration and false alarm fines. That means you, the wise and enlightened homeowner with a monitored alarm system, need to make sure your system is registered anywhere it’s required, and that you are doing everything you can to avoid false alarms. But some homeowners are pushing back at some aspects of these new laws: even if the fees appear reasonable, as is often the case, the penalties are getting a lot of attention – as demonstrated by this letter, written by a resident of Mount Laurel, New Jersey.
Did you know that all Mount Laurel residents with home security alarm systems are required to register their systems with the township and pay an annual $20 fee? This is required by ordinance, even though the township does not issue bills to residents or appear to know or even track which residents actually have alarm systems.
The issue has grown as more people install security systems. In the past decade, the number of security-alarm systems in homes and businesses doubled from about 17 million to 34 million, according to Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, a national industry group. The Texas-based coalition formed in 2003 to address the high rate of false alarms. But this particular homeowner echoes a common complaint: some jurisdictions have implemented alarm registration and false alarm fine laws without thinking through the process very well.
Cities and Towns Have to Start Somewhere
If you have an unregistered security alarm system and Mount Laurel becomes aware (such as by you experiencing a false alarm that results in the dispatch of firefighters), be prepared to receive a strongly worded notice requiring you to fill out a one-page form and pay a $20 fee. Failure to do so within two weeks, as stated, will result in the issuance of a summons.
It can be difficult launching a registration program from scratch – and generally the jurisdiction's only indication that someone has a monitored alarm system is through a dispatch of police or fire personnel.
It seems ironic that a nominal fee and registration (unknown to most residents) entail such a dictatorial protocol with "gotcha" legal consequences. If you must appear in court and opt to plead "guilty" (for failing to register in time), additional penalties, including court fees, will be tacked onto the total, which will exceed by four times the amount of the initial registration cost.
Pleas for Reasonableness
Frankly, I'm baffled. Paying an annual fee and registering a security alarm is reasonable and fair. I'm sure Mount Laurel could use the fees that are generated, but issuing a summons within two weeks of an initial letter for a measly $20 fee is disproportionately heavy-handed, unwarranted and tantamount to extortion. This policy must be changed immediately.
Of course, once your alarm system is registered, your best protection against false alarm fines is to reduce the false alarms themselves. That’s where having advanced features (such as notifications, remote arming/disarming, and video services) can make a tremendous difference in your favor. You also want equipment that is tested and proven for false alarm reduction: demand UL-listed equipment, and be sure to ask your company about CP01 compliance for your system’s ease of use (required in some states). As the leader in wireless home security and the #1 ranked alarm company in the US, FrontPoint knows all about false alarm reduction. We use GE Security equipment, which meets the most stringent requirements. Plus, we’ll help you get your system registered, if required, and then we’ll work with you so your system works – when you need it to.