Alarm-System Monitoring Law
What does Seattle’s alarm-monitoring law cover?
(Seattle Municipal Code Chapter 6.10)
Frequently Asked Questions
The City of Seattle requires each alarm-monitoring company in Seattle to obtain an annual license.
The cost of the license depends upon two factors. First, there is a flat-rate fee,
ranging from $100 to $500, based on the number of alarm systems monitored. The second factor is an annual fee for each individually monitored alarm system.
Alarm monitoring companies also are responsible for each false-alarm occurrence in the city. These annual license fees and false-alarm fees are the responsibility of, and billed to, the alarm-monitoring companies rather than individual alarm-system subscribers.
As a homeowner or business, do I need to obtain the license or permit for my alarm system? Will I get a bill from the
No. Your alarm monitoring company is responsible for the system license and paying the required
How much does the monitored alarm fee cost?
Alarm-monitoring companies pay the following annual fees:
What is the fee for false alarms?
- $10 for each burglar, panic and robbery alarm
(Note: there is no fee for monitored medical
- $76 for buildings with fewer than three (3) stories and
less than 200,000 square feet.
- $223 for buildings with three (3) or four (4) stories and
less than 200,000 square feet.
- $693 for buildings with five (5) stories or more or with
more than 200,000 square feet.
In addition to the annual fees, alarm monitoring companies will be billed $115
for false burglar alarms and $230 for false panic/duress/robbery alarms at any
location inside Seattle city limits, when the Seattle Police Department (SPD)
have been dispatched and arrive at the alarm location. If SPD is dispatched but
the call is cancelled prior to their arrival at the alarm site, the false alarm
fee is $30. For more information, click here.
If an alarm is due to an actual crime, no false alarm fee is
charged. There is no false-alarm fee for a false fire alarm.
What is the purpose of this law?
The main intent of the law is to hold alarm-monitoring companies and their customers more accountable for false alarms, and reduce the number of unnecessary police and fire responses. The fees
offset the costs to the Seattle Police and Fire Departments of responding to false or unintentional alarms.
More than 98 percent of all burglar and property alarms ultimately prove to be false alarms.
Can alarm companies pass along these new costs to subscribers? Can they tack on additional administrative costs?
Yes. Because of this, the City of Seattle urges consumers to understand their contractual agreements and the alarm monitoring companies’ obligations. If your alarm-monitoring company passes these charges on to you, it is possible administrative costs will be added to the license fees and to the false burglar alarm fees. Your alarm-monitoring company will also owe state and local business and occupation (B&O) taxes on any amounts passed on to and collected from their customers. The amount of state and local B&O taxes for each alarm fee is:
If an alarm-monitoring company decides to pass along the cost of the individual alarm fee to subscribers, each subscriber must be provided a copy of its policies and practices with respect to the billing of this fee, including information about any administrative charges added to the license fees. You may also be offered options by your alarm monitoring company to lower your costs, such as dispatching private security services instead of
the Seattle Police Department when your alarm is activated.
- $10 annual license fee for burglary, panic and robbery alarms:
$0.19 in taxes.
- $76 annual license fee for fire- and sprinkler-alarm
systems: $1.44 in taxes.
- $223 annual license fee for fire- and sprinkler-alarm systems:
$4.24 in taxes
- $693 annual license fee for fire- and sprinkler-alarm systems:
$13.17 in taxes
- $90 false burglar alarm fee (per occurrence): $1.71 in taxes.
- $30 false burglar alarm fee (per occurrence): $0.57 in
What about sales tax – do I have to pay that too?
State and local retail sales taxes are not due on alarm monitoring activities or on the fees charged to the companies by the City. Any billings by the companies greater than the amount for the City fee, plus the applicable
business and occupation taxes, represent administrative fees and/or profit
added by the company.
I have a monitored medical alarm – is that covered by this new law?
No. Monitored medical alarms are not included in this new law. These alarms differ from panic alarms, which are covered. Panic alarms receive police response based on fear of impending injury or bodily harm due to criminal activity, while medical alarms generally receive fire response based on an emergency due to a pre-existing (doctor-diagnosed) medical condition.
How were these fees determined?
The fees were set following careful analysis of response costs when an alarm activates (regardless of whether the alarm activation was false). In 2002, more than 98 percent of the dispatched alarm calls for police
response were deemed false. In 2001, more than 75 percent of the dispatched alarm calls for fire
response were deemed false, unintentional, or a system malfunction. Historically the costs of
these responses have been paid by the City’s general fund. Seattle estimates the fees will recover more than
$1.8 million in City costs that were previously absorbed by general taxpayers.
Is there a senior or fixed-income discount?
The City offers no discounts. Your alarm monitoring company may offer discounts.
What if I cancel my service – will I get a refund? Will I have to pay this fee again if I switch companies?
The City does not refund license fees to alarm monitoring companies when subscribers cancel their
service. Individual alarm companies may have their own policies regarding refunds. The City is allowing subscribers to switch monitoring companies without charging the new monitoring company for a license fee that was paid within the calendar year by the previous monitoring company. Be prepared to provide your new company with the documentation of prior payment.
What if my alarm is activated during a power outage?
During power outages, alarm activation may occur when an alarm
system battery is low or faulty or in some cases, the reason for the alarm
activation is unknown. Alarm installation, equipment or maintenance of any
alarm system is not a police matter and must be handled by the alarm user or the
alarm company. When your alarm company calls SPD and officers are
dispatched to your location but find no evidence of a crime, attempted crime or
other emergency documented by physical evidence, your alarm company will be
charged a $90 false alarm fee which they may subsequently pass on to you.
Why isn’t the City charging the license and false-alarm fees directly to
Seattle’s main intent with this law is to hold alarm-monitoring companies more accountable for false alarms, and reduce the number of unnecessary police and fire responses. Alarm monitoring companies are the experts and should be teaching their customers how to properly set and care for their alarm systems. National and local statistics have proven that raising fines paid
directly by homeowners and businesses have had no significant impact on reducing the number of false alarms. Alarm-monitoring companies have enjoyed the benefit of police response to their customers’ alarms without any accountability for the accuracy or reliability of those alarms.
How can I learn more about the alarm-system monitoring law?
Questions regarding application or enforcement should be directed to License and Tax Enforcement Inspector
Terry Boyle at (206) 684-8406 or by e-mail to email@example.com.