On August 1, 2016, Lakewood City Council sent a clear message to all renters living in Lakewood by voting for the Rental Housing Safety Program. known as the R.I.P. Essentially the message from Lakewood City Council was, Lakewood renters do not possess enough brain power, energy or courage to manage their own rental housing SAFETY without government interference.
Although most, if not all, city council members do not agree with my viewpoint, I have provided a link above which will take you to the city website where council members share why they support the rental inspection plan.
While we have not heard much lately, it looks like it will not be very long before property owners and renters will have to start living with this new big brother program.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that citizens are to be free of unreasonable search and seizure of their persons and papers.
The city councils’ vote indicates a willingness to violate Fourth Amendment Rights or at least the spirit of the Fourth Amendment Rights in the guise as the council says, “moving in the right direction in the name of SAFETY”.
For the sake of argument, let’s say I am wrong and city council is right. Then why not make the SAFETY program more comprehensive?
I offer the following suggestions to our Lakewood City Council in consideration for making their SAFETY plan more comprehensive which means more renter SAFETY.
- UNIFORMED POLICE OFFICER: Include a uniformed police officer on the rental housing inspection team for SAFETY. The officer can check everyone at the house for criminal warrants. Renters and landlords with a warrant get booked into jail. The officer can also try to protect the other unarmed team members should a rental occupant resort to violence in an effort to fight for what they perceive to be their constitutional rights. It is obvious that the city council plan promotes unnecessary verbal and physical confrontation making a uniformed police officer a must.
- DRUG DOG: Because our city council is pushing R.I.P. in the name of SAFETY then using a drug dog to locate and confiscate renter’s illegal drugs makes sense. If city council allows drugs to remain in the rental house, the renter could expire from a drug overdose. In the name of SAFETY, we should confiscate illegal drugs and book drug abusing renters into jail.
- ILLEGAL ALIEN CHECK: Anyone in this country illegally has committed a crime. That is what the term “illegal alien” means. If they return after being deported, then they are a felon. That being said, the uniformed officer (Reference #1 above) should check each renter’s citizenship status. Illegal aliens should be turned over to the immigration authorities in the name of safety. Their very illegal presence in our country confirms they are criminals. After all, we have enough of our own home-grown criminals. We do not need to import criminals from other countries. The R.I.P. program should deport any out of country criminals found in our Lakewood rental properties in the name of public SAFETY.
- STOLEN PROPERTY CHECK: The R.I.P. is a golden opportunity for victims of burglaries, car prowls, and thefts to get their property back including stolen vehicles. The R.I.P. is all about SAFETY, so why not take this opportunity to make our personal property SAFE by running serial numbers for stolen property checks?
- FIREARMS – CONCEALED CARRY & OPEN CARRY: An on-site uniformed police officer can confiscate any weapons the renter may be wearing or have in his or her possession. Oh, wait. What about Second Amendment Rights? I guess it stands to reason that if city council is willing to violate the Fourth Amendment, it should be easy to violate the Second Amendment. A renter might tell the uninvited city inspection team that if they are not comfortable with the renter wearing a firearm, then they should leave. In most cases, the renter will have a right to wear a firearm.
With these enhancements to the Rental Inspection Safety Program, I am starting to understand what our city council’s drive for SAFETY can mean.
If Lakewood City Council chooses to ignore the Fourth Amendment by simply hiding behind the word SAFETY, our city can accomplish a lot by simply expanding their safety program.
One last observation. Our Lakewood City Council’s R.I.P. is a genius move. Think about it. Without the council approved R.I.P. program made possible by hijacking the inspection provision of the Washington State Landlord Tenant Act there could be no R.I.P. The city now plans to bully their way over renter thresholds. The manipulation of the Landlord Tenant law is a bold and creative move.
What would happen if police bullied or forced their way through a renter’s front door with no probable cause, no reasonable suspicion, no exigent circumstances and no warrant? This would be thought of as an abuse of police power and a violation of the renter’s Constitutional Rights.
People would be outraged if our uniformed police acted in a Gestapo-like fashion. The ACLU would be all over this kind of police action. The Department of Justice would launch a major investigation. Civil lawsuits would be filed with the City of Lakewood paying out millions of dollars on civil rights claims. There would be protestors marching on city hall.
My compliments to our city council. They have made it possible to accomplish what would ordinarily seem impossible in America and in doing so, will be bringing SAFETY to our renters.
If in the end if the SAFETY enhancements I have suggested are not included in the R.I.P., then SAFETY must not be the real motivation for the R.I.P.. I would ask, “What then is city council’s true motivation?”
For any of you thinking this article contains ridiculous suggestions, I would be quick to admit that I agree with you. But, my suggested SAFETY enhancements are no more ridiculous than Lakewood City Council’s R.I.P. plan in terms of eroding renters’ and property owners’ right to privacy and security.
It is interesting to note that there are a number of U.S. court cases which explore what happens when law enforcement uses lethal force inside someone’s home after gaining entrance in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The question is, does the homeowner have the right to defend his right to privacy when a police officer or public official is inside his or her home illegally.
As the City of Lakewood pushes forward with their rental inspection program, I am confident they will work hard to create a smooth running inspection process. I am confident they will find cases to point to where they can say, “See, one look at this rental confirms we need R.I.P. On the other hand, I will not be surprised to learn of the city experiencing, no causing, unexpected negative consequences.
There is time. I still hope City Council will be able to escape the fog that has clouded their judgment regarding constitutional rights.