Should Contracts Describe The System And Its Purpose? Your Advice Is Requested - December 16, 2016
SHOULD CONTRACTS DESCRIBE THE SYSTEM AND ITS PURPOSE? YOUR ADVICE IS REQUESTED
This is a question I need some guidance on and assistance with. I am mulling over including the description in the 2017 updated contracts. So here is the issue.
An alarm owner called me and noted that the All in One Agreements, while describing some of the services [cameras, remote access and access control] does not squarely describe an intrusion system, a fire system or other systems that may be installed. Other than mentioning these systems there is nothing in the contract that says "this is what an intrusion [fire - CO - water flow - temperature] system does". I responded by asking the caller to send me the UL description for an intrusion alarm system and NFPA's description of a fire alarm system. Haven't heard back and thus I am opening the question up to everyone.
One of my first alarm company clients [circa 1975] used a Commercial Lease form for all of its installations. The contract didn't describe the system and didn't differentiate between systems. One of the owners [Elliot Kaplan - hope you're alive and well] asked if the blank space used for the equipment being sold could simply read "burglar alarm" or "fire alarm". He explained that he preferred not to list the equipment or otherwise describe the system. With all of my 6 months of experience as a lawyer I assured him that it was fine. Now with 40 years experience I'm not so sure my answer is any different, though consumer laws require the breakdown, at least on a sale. On a lease I suppose there would be no requirement to list the equipment.
But do you need to? Before thinking about it consider the formating of the Alarm Contracts. The contracts are packed full of provisions, all of them necessary for one reason or another. Some may be required by statute, others to enforce of waive rights and others to provide the protection from claims that alarm companies need in order to survive. [survive? yes, so you can keep your prices reasonable and competitive and so you don't get wiped out by a single claim]. Adding new provisions necessarily increases the size of the contracts which are already long enough. Taking something out to replace the space is risky. When you buy a car do you really need a description that the vehicle can be used to transport you from one place to another? Do you really need to be told that you shouldn't transport anyone in the trunk, at least for long trips; top of car not designed for you to strap your bedroom set to; vehicle should not be used a lethal weapon or battering ram. When does obvious cross the line to stupid?
If we should have a short description, and I'd like everyone's take on this, what do you recommend?
Intrusion System: This system is designed to detect and signal the opening of or activity in certain protected areas.
Fire System: This system is designed to detect fire or smoke in certain areas.
Should we include specific disclaimers as part of the description?
Intrusion System: This system is not designed to prevent entry into or out of the premises; not all signals are intended to report a potential intrusion in the area; system may not operate as intended and ...
Fire System: This system is not designed to prevent fire or smoke damage. etc.
Many of you use a proposal before presenting and getting the formal contract signed. Most that I've seen will first describe the system simply as "burglar" or " fire" and then list the equipment included. Do you need to use the above description too? The description could be included in the Schedule of Equipment and Services we provide when you get the All in One Agreement for commercial security or residential security/fire. More print on the form and more check boxes. Let me know your thoughts so these changes can be included in the updated forms. Thanks