A variety of statutory changes relating to the construction industry took effect on July 1 as the result of the unanimous passage of House Bill 535. Section 20 of the Bill imposes new requirements relating to monitored alarm systems in residential and commercial settings. Under the newly created section 553.7931, the owner, lessee, or occupant of property is required to register their alarm system with their local governmental entity, if the local governmental entity has a registration requirement.
Where Does This Apply?
Counties, cities, and townships throughout the State have varying requirements for alarm registration. For example, Leon County and Tallahassee have no requirement. Polk County has a voluntary registration program, and Orange County and the City of Orlando have a mandatory registration program. The purpose of alarm system registration is generally to reduce the number of false alarm calls, which require the use of emergency personnel and other government resources, and it applies to both residential and business locations.
While decisions regarding the scope of registration requirements will remain vested with local governments, section 553.7931 imposes the following requirements on contractors and alarm monitoring companies:
- Written notice must be provided prior to activating or reactivating an alarm system that was installed by the contractor or monitoring company.
- Verbal notice must be provided prior to activating an alarm system that was installed by the customer.
- The notice must be given to the owner, lessee, or occupant of the property where the alarm system is located, or their authorized representative.
- The notice must state that the applicable local governmental entity may require the registration of the alarm system.
The law does not burden the contractor or monitoring company with determining the requirement of each local governmental entity, though customer inquiries should be anticipated. No particular penalty is established in the new section in connection with failure to provide the required notice; however, the section is part of the Florida Building Codes Act. Accordingly, violations could be subject to the administrative and civil enforcement remedies generally applicable to violations of other sections.
What Action Do I Take?
Alarm monitoring companies and contractors who install alarm systems should immediately revise their installation and monitoring agreements to include notice that the applicable local governmental entity may require the customer to register their alarm system. They should also include indemnification language related to any claims or losses arising from failure to register the alarm.1
Landlords and community associations can also shift liability for alarm registrations and false alarm fines by adding appropriate language to their lease agreements and other tenant or member disclosure documents.
If you are required to update your form contracts, you should also consider revisions to firm up your warranty disclaimers, attorney fee liability, and ensure that all other statutorily required disclosures are up to date.
1Section 553.7931(2) limits the liability of an alarm monitoring company for governmental fines imposed for failing to register a system, dispatching emergency services to an unregistered user, and excessive false alarms not caused by error or malfunction by the contractor or monitoring company, but claims by third parties would not be covered by the statute.