New York to combat municipal licensing trend

State expected to clarify alarm installers need only state license, not extra local ones
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

ALBANY, N.Y.—To end a new trend by New York municipalities to require alarm installers to get local licenses in addition to the mandated state one, a state committee is expected to recommend rewriting state law, according to the president of the New York Burglar & Fire Alarm Association.

“Once we get the wording clarified that will pre-empt local communities from passing these kinds of regulations,” Joseph Hayes, who is owner of All County Security in Putnam, N.Y, and president of the NYBFAA, told Security Systems News.

According to the New York Department of State (DOS), New York is seeing “a recent trend, imposed by local governments, which requires installers to also obtain an additional license from the municipality.”

The DOS notes that its Division of Licensing already issues licenses to individuals and companies who install, service, and/or maintain security and other alarm systems.

According to the DOS, “this practice [of requiring a local municipal license] is prohibited by statute and artificially inflates the cost of doing business, an expense which likely will be passed on to the consumer.”

The issue was slated to come before a DOS board, the Security and Fire Alarm Systems Advisory Committee, for review at a public meeting on May 19 at the state office building here.

The meeting was cancelled because a committee member was unavailable, but will be rescheduled, likely this summer, so the committee can consider licensing issues, including the one involving local municipalities, Hayes said.

The NYBFAA has representation on the advisory committee, as do other groups, including law enforcement, fire officials and the public, he said. The committee’s job is advise the state on any changes needed to Article 6D, which governs the licensing of security and fire alarm systems installers.

Hayes said that one of the purposes of 6D, which he said became law in 1992, “was to eliminate what had happened historically, where every local community had an alarm-installing license.”

He recalled there were 17 separate licenses required in the downstate New York area where he owned an alarm company before the law passed.

“When the state took it [licensing] over,” he said, “the state has supremacy so the local licenses basically just disappeared. It became one license, which is much easier to administer and is more functional because the state actually does regulate, and most towns were only collecting revenue.”

Now, however, Hayes said, local communities are interpreting the statute to say that “a local community could pass a law that says, ‘If you want to install any type of wiring, you have to have a license.’” Communities are passing such local laws because they’re cash-strapped and need revenue, he said.

Hayes told SSN that a community near where he lives has passed a requirement for a low-voltage electric license costing $500 per year. The two-year state license totals $200, Hayes said.

He said local communities are passing such measures because of “ambiguities in the wording” of state law. Hayes said the advisory committee plans to “rewrite the wording to clarify that.”