Deaf woman slapped with home security alarm fines in Vallejo

Michael Finney Image
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Deaf woman slapped with false security alarm fines in Vallejo
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A Vallejo woman with a hearing impairment was slapped with fines after she was unable to communicate with her home security company.

VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) -- Many cities, including San Francisco, Oakland and Vallejo, slap homeowners with fines for false home alarms. 7 On Your Side helped one woman escape her fine.

A Vallejo woman says she was forced to install an alarm to keep out squatters but her extra vigilance cost her more money than she expected and raised issues about the rights of the hearing impaired.

Barbara Hyde showed 7 On Your Side the new fence in her backyard. She erected it to keep squatters out who had previously entered through an easement next to her Vallejo rental.

The squatters left behind cigarette butts, a pillow and even a mirror inside her shed.

Hyde had to rip out the rug in her living room and install a new fireplace after she says squatters destroyed it.

She replaced the side entrance to her garage with a steel door after they broke through the old one.

Hyde also activated an alarm system from ADT but the system was prone to false alarms and she requested that ADT text her before sending any police or fire.

Two false alarms brought fines from the city of Vallejo for $348.

ADT normally calls the home phone first but Hyde is deaf and can't hold a conversation on the phone.

The company agreed to text her instead after 7 On Your Side contacted them at her request. It gave her a free upgrade to a more advanced system, which allows ADT to text her.

But she couldn't text back.

"That doesn't solve my problem. I need to get a text and send back a text because I can't hear on the phone," Hyde said.

She demanded that ADT pay the fine, saying police and fire would not have come had she been given the ability to communicate with ADT. It refused.

7 On Your Side then contacted the city of Vallejo and it agreed to rescind her fine.

"The bottom line, ADT needs to be accessible to me the same way any other person can have access to their system," Hyde said.

She might have a case under the Americans with Disabilities Act but ABC7's Legal Analyst Gil Soffer says it's unclear whether the act applies in this case.

"ADA applies to public accommodations, to facilities, and ADT isn't really any of those things. It's a service provider," Soffer said.

He suggests Hyde might have better luck asserting her rights under California law, which he calls more generous.

ADT did not return our requests for comment. They had previously offered Hyde the opportunity to cancel her alarm contract but she refused, saying she wants her alarm protection just like everybody else.