Security Alarm Systems & Contracts – What you should know.

Security alarm systems are always accompanied by a contract for services. This is one contract/agreement you really want to know what it says. There are a couple of areas of importance.

The first is the term of the agreement.  Most agreements are for a 36 month term with a 12 month automatic renewal. This means that you agree to pay the service provider the monthly fee for 36 months and that after that you agree to pay the same term for an additional 12 months and so on each year after. The agreement will also spell out the process required for canceling the term committment.  Most often you can only cancel by buying out the remainder of your agreement. Some companies will negotiate this others will not. Remember this is a legal and binding agreement that you signed. Don’t rely just on the sales person to tell you what you are signing. Usually the agreement allows you to cancel the terms of renewal in the months prior to the expiration of the 36 month term. This is often required in the form of a written request to cancel.  If you are military and under transfer orders there are special rules for cancelling the terms of your agreement and your command should be able to help you with those.  For most people the agreement you sign is no different than that for a car or home purchase. If you move you are responsible for the term of your agreement whether you have the new home owner take over or you transfer your system. Many national companies will allow you to transfer your system but often they insist on installing new equipment at the new location and extending the terms of your agreement.  Be aware that with many companies anytime you ask for something from them they may be extending the terms of your agreement.

Secondly, you need to be aware of your equipment warranty.  Most alarm systems have some type of battery or many systems today have batteries in every device.  You the customer are responsible for your batteries.  It is in the agreement you signed. Equipment and Installation warranty is usually for 1 year and often the installation warranty is only for 90 days.  The equipment warranty does not always include service so you might get stuck with a service trip charge even.  These are questions you need to ask and see on paper before you sign an agreement.  Do not take anybody at their word for changes or promises.  Especially if they just happened to knock on your door with a “special promotion” for you and your neighbors only.  Your equipment is not covered under acts of abuse, neglect, catastrophe or power surges.

Finally the third issue we come across a lot is the communication path for your system.  Test your system regularly to ensure that it communicates with the alarm monitoring station.  We recommend testing for security systems at least once per month if not more.  For medical alert devices test weekly. If your system uses a tradition phone line to communicate you need to also be aware that most alarm systems do not communicate well with (VoIP) internet/cable phone lines.  You may have gotten a great deal from your local cable provider to switch your phone over and they will tell you everything will work the same. But not for your alarm system. Your alarm may work periodically but it will not be reliable. This is your responsibility to notify your alarm company anytime you change your phone service.  Phone companies have often disconnected phone wires for alarm systems because it is not their wiring and they don’t want to mess with it. There are very important procedures and rules for wiring alarm systems into traditional phone lines.  It must be wired for line seizure which means that if a phone is off the hook the alarm system can still seize the line and make the call.  When an alarm company wires into a phone jack in the house they often do not wire for this. They may just wire for that phone on the jack being off. I have seen this many many times.  It is not an industry standard and does not meet alarm codes.  But it is fast and easy, most people don’t know the difference until it is to late.  The best method for your alarm system to communicate is over a cellular module or radio module. This is a wireless communication path and it removes any concern for your traditional home phone issues.  This service usually cost a bit more but it is more reliable and if you are able to cancel your home phone line the savings will make up the difference.  If you need the home phone line the difference is marginal.  Security is worth the extra cost.  But even this path is not guaranteed 100% all of the time.  But I feel it is the most reliable. You also get the options of having interactive services to remote control your system and any home control devices using the cellular communications devices.