Home Security Act comes to PA

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

PHILADELPHIA--As of July 1, security system installers will be subject to the new Home Improvement Act, which was passed earlier this year in an effort to protect Pennsylvania consumers from unscrupulous contractors of various sorts, such as roofers, remodelers, painters, landscapers, electricians, and, yes, security systems installers.

Ralph Manento, past president of the Pennsylvania BFAA and owner of Royal Security Systems, said the new law affects security dealers greatly and forces companies to change their contracts, but many installers are unaware of the law and have yet to come into compliance.

Not only does the law put a new licensing scheme in place, but the law is also very specific about what must be contained in a contract, and even spells out the size of the type that must be used in some cases. Before performing any work after July 1, installers must register with the Bureau of Consumer Protection in the Office of the Attorney General, and part of that registration requires, for example, "proof of liability insurance covering personal injury in an amount not less than $50,000 and insurance covering property damage caused by the work of a home improvement contractor in an amount not less than $50,000," along with other information dating back at least 10 years.

The registration fee is $50, to be paid every other year, and the registration number must be displayed in all advertisements and on all contracts and estimates.

For the contracts themselves, they must contain a notice of rescission, for example, so that any job agreed to may be canceled within three working days, and if it contains an arbitration clause, it must be in all capital letters set in 12-point type.

Perhaps most importantly, there are a number of clauses that can be voided by the consumer, including any clause that provides for automatic recurring renewal, or any clause that relieves the security installer from liability for acts committed by the contractor.

Further, if any parts of this Act are not adhered to by an installer, the installer can be charged with anything from a class one misdemeanor to a class three felony, with penalties increased if the violation occurs in connection with a customer who is over 60 years of age.

Manento isn't sure what the enforcement will be like right out of the gate, but he urges anyone doing alarm work in Pennsylvania to become acquainted with the new law, and even some who aren't doing business in Pennsylvania. As this law follows a similar law passed in Connecticut in 2006, "this is the kind of law that other states pick up on," he said.

However, Manento said, the PBFAA is of the opinion that licensing is good for the security industry. He just feels that security installers ought to be licensed separately from home improvement contractors.

The full text of the new law can be found here (http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2007&sessInd=0&billBody=S&billTyp=B&billNbr=0100&pn=2484).