Do You Need a Permit for a Home Security System?

Many people can be caught by surprise after getting their home security system.

The reason is the fact that many homeowners and renters are not informed that they will need to obtain an alarm permit if they want to have a home security system.

Some may not even be aware until authorities fine them for not having one.

Do you need a permit for a home security system? In many cities and counties, you need an alarm permit for your home security system. Emergency responders may require alarm system owners to have a valid alarm permit before dispatching a unit. If you do not have an alarm permit for your home security system, you can also be fined.

Do You Need a Permit for a Home Security System

Alarm permits seem to be a tricky topic. There also seems to be a lot of confusion too.

The main problem is that what homeowners are required to do can vary a lot depending on local laws and regulations. So let’s take a more in-depth look.

Monitored vs Self-Monitored Home Security Systems

Typically home security systems can be put in two main categories:

  • Professionally monitored home security systems: Home security systems that are actively being monitored by a trained security team 24/7. Upon an emergency, they will attempt contacting the owner and the relevant emergency responders.
  • Self-monitored home security systems: Systems that are not connected to any monitoring teams and will not notify the police or any other emergency responders. The whole responsibility for contacting the authorities lies within the owner.

Often local ordinances state that owners of monitored home security systems should obtain an alarm permit.

Because of that, many homeowners may mistakenly think that they do not need an alarm permit for self-monitoring home security systems.

However, in many cases, every home security alarm system, including both professionally monitored and self-monitored home security systems, must be registered, and the owner must have a valid alarm permit.

Technically speaking, self-monitored systems are still being monitored—by the owner.

In these cases, when applying for a permit, “self-monitored” is usually selected for the alarm company that is monitoring the system.

It is recommended to check with your local authorities (the city hall, city council, local police station) regardless of what type of security system you will be using (professionally monitored or self-monitored).


How to Find Out if You Need a Home Security System Permit

Many jurisdictions can be fairly lenient.

Some cities and counties may require an alarm permit only after a few false alarms, while, in other areas, it can be mandatory.

And since local rules and regulations can and do vary a lot, it is always best to check what the laws in your area say.

The best way to find out if you need a home security system alarm permit is to call your local police, sheriff, fire department, or city hall. Make sure to use their non-emergency numbers.

Information can often be found online as well by visiting their respective websites.

Sometimes your home security company may keep track of where alarm permits are required and inform you if one is necessary according to your address. If there is no information, speak to your home security company before purchasing or installing your home security system—especially if you will be performing the installation or the address is different from the shipping address.

Sometimes security companies inform their clients if they need to obtain an alarm permit or not.

In certain cases, the home security company’s information may be lagging behind, and some homeowners may be required to apply for an alarm permit even if their company is unaware of it.

Conversely, after contacting their city or local police station, some owners may discover they do not actually need a permit (unless they are a business) even though their security system provider states otherwise.


Where to Get a Home Security System Permit

Generally, home security system permits are issued by local police departments and city and county government offices. Alarm permits can be obtained in person, submitted online, or printed out, filled, and mailed with the payment inside. Over-the-phone permit registrations may also be possible.

Depending on local ordinances, homeowners may be expected to apply for an alarm permit:

  1. Before installation.
  2. Within a certain period from the date of installation.
  3. Before activating the monitored home security system.

Failing to do so can also result in a fine.

Multiple alarm permits may be required for multiple alarm systems, even if they are located at the same address and owned by the same person.

In some instances, the alarm company may be responsible for applying for an alarm permit and paying the corresponding fees.


What Happens if You Do Not Have a Home Security System Permit

The biggest concern is false alarms.

The reality is many homeowners do not worry about getting an alarm permit until they get one or several false alarms and get fined.

Homeowners who do not have an alarm permit may have to pay hefty fines if an emergency unit gets dispatched only to discover it was a false alarm.

Alarm permits can cost between $20 and $120. But fees for not owning an alarm permit can range between $25 to $270 for the first offense and gradually increase in the case of repeat offenses. Fines can reach up to $500 or even $1,000 for residential properties and as much as $4,000 for non-residential properties in certain areas.

That being said, even alarm permit holders can be subjected to false alarm fees if there is a high number of false alarms.

In some cities, like Los Angeles, for example, even a single false alarm will result in a fee regardless if the homeowner has an alarm permit or not. (However, alarm permit holders will pay less than people without a permit.)

There are also some requirements when it comes to how long a siren can sound.

For example, if your neighbors hear your siren going off and end up calling the police after some time, you may get fined if you do not have a permit.

Some cities and counties have adopted limited response ordinances to cut down on the high costs of false alarms. For example, many emergency responders now require a visual confirmation before emergency service dispatch.

This means that emergency service departments can refuse to respond to alarms—especially if the owner does not have an alarm permit.

This is why security companies have a monitoring team that will try to contact the homeowner in order to confirm if it is a true emergency before getting in touch with the authorities. However, even in this case, the police or fire departments may require your alarm permit before responding.


Do Alarm Permits Expire?

Alarm permits can expire depending on your local regulations. Often alarm permits are valid for 1 year, but some may be valid for up to 4 years. Alarm permits normally do not renew automatically; it is the owner’s responsibility to renew their alarm permit once expired.

The renewal of alarm fees usually costs less than the initial application fee. The renewal fees for alarm permits cost between $5 to $50.


Can Alarm Permits Be Suspended?

In case of a high number of false alarms, alarm permits can be revoked or suspended. The number of false alarms that will lead to a suspension can vary but is usually around 8 false alarms per 12-month period.

This means that the homeowner has to apply for an alarm permit again if they wish to continue using their home security system, frequently leading to reinstatement fees, costing between $20 and up to $200.


Why Are There Alarm Permits?

Alarm permits should not be confused with alarm licenses. An alarm license is what home security companies and installers need to obtain in order to carry out their business legally.

An alarm permit is something that residential and non-residential property owners may need to obtain if they use a security system.

According to the data, between 94 and 98% of all alarm calls are false alarms.

Alarm permits and false alarm fees have been adopted as a way to cover some of the costs associated with false alarms and to motivate owners to cut down on the number of false alarms.

Some cities and counties have adopted limited response ordinances to cut down on the high costs of false alarms. For example, many emergency responders now require a visual confirmation before emergency service dispatch.

Review and read thoroughly all the information provided by your local authorities. Regulations vary, and you want to be fully aware of how they apply to you.

Don’t forget to check what your alarm permit covers. Some can be covering only burglaries or fire emergencies, and others may be combined. Wired security systems may also require an electrical permit in certain cases.


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Edward Clark
Edward Clark, with 15 years of hands-on experience, is a distinguished expert in smart locks and home security systems. He holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering with a focus on Cybersecurity and is a member of the Electronic Security Association (ESA). His credentials include certifications from ASIS International, IAPP, CompTIA, NTS, and CEDIA. With expertise spanning risk management, electronic security, and data privacy, he's been featured in The Guardian, Forbes, Wired, and more. Edward's mission: guiding individuals toward secure homes using the latest technologies.

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