SIW "Legal Side" columnist Ken Kirschenbaum, Esq., is a New York-license lawyer practicing with Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC, a Long Island legal firm with a rich history of assisting clients in security and alarm-related matters.
It is a good idea to revisit your collection practices from time to time. Here are some ideas that you should implement regarding your collection practices:
1. The process starts with knowing the full and correct name of your subscriber; the full corporate or partnership name. [the correct name belongs on the contract -- which you must have with every subscriber].
2. Be certain to get the title of the person who signs on behalf of a non-person entity, such as a corporation.
3. Confirm the name of your subscriber by checking a posted license, sales tax notice, or corporate filing receipts if you can get to see them. Many subscribers will have licenses posted in the premises that you can easily look at.
4. Make a copy of the checks you receive from your subscribers, especially if the bank account is a new one. Retain the copy with your subscriber's records.
5. Try and get your subscriber's tax ID number. In fact the new contracts I create call for that information so that you can fill out the UCC form for your security interest.
6. Retain records of service requests and calls.
7. Obtain records from the central station to confirm that the alarm system was tested and working when installed and get periodic test signal confirmation and retain those records in your subscriber's file.
8. Be mindful of your subscriber's payment practice history. In other words, if the customer typically pays within a particular time frame then you need to be alerted to a failure to pay within that period. You need to contact the subscriber to ascertain why payment is not being made in the customary manner. If you do not receive a satisfactory answer then that is the time to refer the subscriber to "collection." Each subscriber therefore establishes its own schedule based on past payment history. One subscriber may be fine running 4-6 months in arrears, and another may cause you reason for concern if payment is not received within 15 days.
9. Remember to keep matters on a professional level. Do not get into a personality conflict with your subscriber over late payment of default.
10. If it goes this far, refer the matter to a lawyer familiar with alarm collection practice; avoid collection agencies, and definitely don't turn over a collection account to a relative who like to wear lots of jewelry on his knuckles.
About the author: Ken Kirschenbaum, Esq., is a New York-licensed lawyer practicing with Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC, a Long Island legal firm with a rich history of assisting clients in security and alarm related matters. Ken can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website, www.kirschenbaumesq.com, features a great supply of legal information and court rulings relevant to the security industry as well as ready-made alarm subscriber contracts. You can also sign up for Ken's discussion list from his homepage.