Can the City Fine a Business Owner For Silent Alarms?

A silent alarm at his business kept going off late at night when the store was closed. But he didn’t find out until fines came in for the false alarms. Does he have to pay them? It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

There are pack and ship stores, and then there are pack and ship stores.

Dan Ford, United Postal Center Plus: “I’m not sure one of a kind, but we are one of the very few.”

Dan’s Fort Lauderdale center cannot only send and receive your mail. They help you do a little shopping.

Dan Ford, United Postal Center Plus: “Wine, our own handcrafted greeting cards, we got smiling Bob, smoked fish dip. We’ve got guitars, we’ve got our own candles with our logo.”

Maybe the most fascinating thing, they have Triksie, who can deliver the letters.

Dan Ford, United Postal Center Plus: “Dog delivery. Thank you kindly.”

Cute dog, and sadly for Dan, his alarm has also gone to the dogs.

Dan Ford, United Postal Center Plus: “It’s a silent alarm, which is activated manually here in the store in the event that the horrible happens and someone is holding us up.”

But for over a year, that silent alarm has been going off, most of them on the 7th of every month around 11:15 at night when the store is closed.

Dan Ford, United Postal Center Plus: “And, yes, it must be some type of malfunction.”

When the silent alarm hit, the alarm company would notify the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, and they would come check it out.

But no one told Dan about the problem. He found out through the mail.

Dan Ford, United Postal Center Plus: “And we were presented a bill by the City of Fort Lauderdale Police Department for just around $1,000.”

The fines were for the false alarms. Needless to say, Dan was not happy that he was the last person to find out his alarm was going off.

Dan Ford, United Postal Center Plus: “You would think my alarm company would give me a call to say, ‘Hey your alarm is malfunctioning, we should do something about that.’ They never said a word.”

The alarm company didn’t agree with Dan.

Dan Ford, United Postal Center Plus: “I was really surprised when they turned their back on me, and they just said, ‘Not us, not our responsibility.'”

Now the worst news. Because of COVID, the city is backed up on fines for false alarms, and instead of the $1000 Dan owes, when they catch up, Dan will have a lot more fines.

Dan Ford, United Postal Center Plus: “It could be $4,000 before it’s all over. I am not sure.”

But he is sure of one thing.

Dan Ford, United Postal Center Plus: “I don’t see where we have any responsibility for the bill … we did nothing wrong.”

If a false alarm goes off over and over, is the city, the alarm company or Dan responsible for all the fines?

Howard Finkelstein: “The police could leave a notice when they respond to a false alarm. But in this case, clearly, the city did not follow its own law, which says they must mail a letter to the business owner after the second false alarm. If they don’t do that, they cannot fine you after the second false alarm.”

The latest news on the fines: Dan’s bill for the false alarms was now up to $2,660.

But that’s been resolved.

After we spoke to Fort Lauderdale’s city manager, he wrote Dan, “We responded to each silent alarm but don’t know if police left a notice or if you have been made aware of the alarm responses. As a result, because they were silent alarms, I will approve waiving of the accrued fees.”

Howard Finkelstein: “It’s good that the city did this, and it’s a reminder during the pandemic, businesses are dying, and the city needs to be helping them, not slapping them with illegal fines.”

Dan Ford, United Postal Center Plus: “We are thrilled with the city, thanks to the city manager.”

Thrilled after his alarming problem was silenced with a call to Help Me Howard.

Dan Ford, United Postal Center Plus: “We knew we would have a great outcome. We have been watching this show for years, and we are absolutely delighted we called Help Me Howard.”

Glad we could help and the city took care of those fines.

You may be wondering why the alarm company isn’t to blame for the false alarms. Because nobody told them it was happening, so they can plead ignorance as well.

Alarmed at a problem that’s left your ears ringing? Don’t remain silent. Pack it up, ship it to us, and let us deliver a solution.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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