After battling cities across the state of Illinois for several years over the issue of municipal monitoring, the Illinois Electronic Security Association is now fighting for independent alarm dealers who are being forced to pay unlawful fees in individual communities.
Although alarm contractors are overseen by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation under the "Private Detective, Private Alarm, Private Security, Fingerprint Vendor, and Locksmith Act," IESA Executive Director Kevin Lehan said that it hasn’t stopped some cities from trying to get dealers to pay to work in their communities.
"Illinois licensed alarm contractors have what is called a home rule exemption. Home rule exemption means that our state licensure is the sole governing document that allows us to do work in this state," Lehan explained. "Even a home rule community cannot regulate our industry. That is the sole domain of the state."
Having received word that some municipalities were engaged in these types of activities, Lehan said he sent a notice to licensed alarm contractors in the state in mid-May warning them about towns that were possibly charging a registration fee and/or making them purchase a surety bond. According to Lehan, alarm contractors in Illinois can only be required to obtain a business license in the community from which they operate.
"What has been happening is these alarm contractors go to do work in 'x' town or whatever town and some of those communities were saying 'well, for the privilege of being able to do work in town you have to pay us $100' or whatever arbitrary fee that they choose for the ability to do work in their town," he said. "Like most alarm contractors, especially those in Chicago where you may have five or six communities encompassing a 30-square-mile area, if you have to pay a fee in each one of them for the privilege to do work there that gets costly and that’s why it was added into our licensure."
Lehan contacted IESA legal counsel Edward W. Williams who crafted a letter that identified the specific sections of licensure that prohibits these types of fees and sent it to two municipalities, the Village of Carol Stream and the Village of Romeoville. The IESA was successful in getting both cities to stop the practice.
"We have discussed this matter with our village attorney, and reviewed the information you have provided. The village attorney has advised that Carol Stream should no longer require a building permit for a burglar alarm system to be installed by a licensed private alarm contractor agency," wrote a Carol Stream city official in an email to Lehan.
Lehan said that the IESA is not opposed and even supports dealers registering in individual communities, but they are against towns attaching a fee to that registration.
"We identify ourselves in the city that 'yes, I’m putting in an alarm system at 123 main street, the central station is this, the installing contractor is that.' We think those communities should have access to that information because if they’re going to roll trucks and squad cars to a location and they’re getting repeated false alarms, they need to know who they can go to get that problem fixed," he said.
However, Lehan said that it’s tough enough to gain licensure in the state as it is, not only from a cost perspective, but the time and effort that are put into the process and that dealers shouldn’t be unnecessarily burdened with these unlawful fees.
"What we’re trying to do is let the industry know that you do not have to pay these fees. It’s just another way that these communities are trying to get into your pocket," he said. "If you come across a community that is trying to require this, let the IESA know, let me know and I will go to bat for you."