By Tara Molina


CHICAGO (CBS) — Accidentally setting off your home alarms seems like no big deal, but it could cost thousands of dollars like it did for one landlord in Matteson.

He says he had no idea he was being charged, let alone racking up a bill of more than $1,000.

Landlord Rob Bermes pays $52 a month for the added layer of protection and says he had the system installed at a rental property after the front door was kicked in at the vacant home.

“The police came out, I think it was about eight times,” he said. “The sensor gets tripped. The alarm goes off. They ask, ‘Do you want police out?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, I’ve already had someone kick in the door.'”

He had ADT come out and check the system. ADT said it’s working.

But Bermes didn’t realize every one of those eight times police pulled up and found nothing was recorded as a false alarm.

“No criminal is going to hang around and wait for the cops to show up,” he said. “So there’s no way to prove that it’s a false alarm, and I don’t feel that I should have to pay $1,040.”

CBS 2 checked the village’s code on this. Residents have to register alarm systems and are allowed two false alarms a year. Then charges hit.

Bermes said if he had registered he would have known that.

“I would have known that, but it goes back to, is it a false alarm or not? How do you know?” he said.

The village’s police chief clarified a false alarm is a police call out to a residence that is safe and secure with no evidence of tampering.

He said, “I spoke to this landlord and advised that I understood his frustration. I offered to reduce the cost in half. The landlord continued to argue and raise his voice, and after about 20 minutes, I advised him that the offer was no longer valid.”

The chief said Bermes can contest the fines in court.

The chief also released the following statement regarding the situation:

“This landlord called my Alarm Administrator, Cyndi last week disputing approximately $1,500 in false alarms.  The Alarm Administrator explained the false alarm process and ordinance, and provided a detailed account of each time an officer was dispatched to the residence from his alarm company, and checked the residence finding it safe and secure.  The landlord was very agitated and continuously argued with the Alarm Administrator, then wanted to talk to the Police Chief.

I spoke to this landlord, and advised that I understood his frustration.  He argued the legality of the ordinance.  I advised him that many cities and villages have similar ordinances.  I explained the purpose of the ordinance, which allows for numerous free false alarms.  I offered to reduce the cost in half.  The landlord continued to argue and raise his voice, and after about 20 minutes, I advised him that the offer was no longer valid, and he had the opportunity to contest the fines in an adjudication hearing, or he can speak to the legal department.”

Bermes maintains that he was respectful and that there is no reason to believe those eight calls were false alarms but says he will register the alarm system.

Tara Molina