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Comment on smart water valves and potential for liability
April 29, 2021
Comment on smart water valves and potential for liability from article on April 21, 2021
          RE: Smart Water Shut Off Valves. 
          In my experience, the smart shutoff valves operate independent of any security system. They detect actual flow through the valve rather than operate from an external device that would need to get wet to activate. With the smart valve the only involvement of the security system may be to alert the customer/keyholder that the valve was activated and the water is shut off. The security system can also be used to switch the smart valve from home mode to away mode. Since it operates independently, does the smart valve raise liability issues after all?  
Larry D
          Every service you perform and every device you install creates new opportunity for liability.  Keep in mind that many if not most alarm companies have expanded their business to include more than intrusion and fire alarms; many low voltage devices for home automation are being installed by alarm companies.  Some of these devices tie into the alarm system in the sense that they are controlled by the same panel or remote smart phone app as well as monitored by professional monitoring centers.
          The water flow shut off valve came to my attention because an alarm installer wants to contract for the device as part of the alarm [or home automation] system and wants to make it clear that alarm companies don’t typically do plumbing work [or 110 electrical work].  The update to the Standard Form Agreements makes it clear that the water flow shut off valve has to be installed by other licensed trades and that it’s the subscriber’s responsibility to engage those separate trades [or course you can agree to include the installation in your contract but I prefer you don’t; no point making you responsible for the plumbers work]. 
          I am advised that there are shut off valves that do not require cutting the water pipe.  If the pipe has a lever instead of a valve that has to be turned the shut off valve can be attached to move the lever. 
          Water flow detection has been included in alarm systems for a long time; this is just the next step.  Since water damage can be extensive it makes sense to be certain to cover liability exposure in the alarm contract.  Be sure to update your contracts.

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301