With the first day of Summer this past June 21 ushering in a heat wave of stifling, muggy temperatures across the country, there’s a sweltering of another kind nationwide that has citizens rather steamed.
‘Mugged,’ if you will.
It’s their perception of the violation of the Fourth Amendment by city officials who would – without “any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause” – enter any and all rental properties for inspections.
“Unreasonable searches,” complain the citizens.
‘For purposes of safety,’ claims the city.
‘The Bill of Rights has been wronged,’ increasingly rule the courts.
As Lakewood, WA prepares to roll out its own version of the Rental Housing Safety Program – and tsunami-like roll over a resistant populace in the process – it’s perhaps instructive to witness the efforts of tenants and landlords across the country seeking legal higher ground.
Wary are the landlords of city leaders in Sanford, Maine, for example, where ostensibly a proposal to license and inspect rental housing is “to ensure the safety of tenants.”
Or so they say, per the June 22 article by Tammy Wells, Senior Staff Writer for the “Journal Tribune.”
However, attracting business investment to the city – a city frequented by campers found along the lakes of Sanford’s many wooded shorelines – appears more indicative of the intrusive program’s true purpose.
As much said Sanford’s Community Development Director Ian Houseal:
“Buildings that meet codes lead to greater housing and job market confidence, sustainable business practices and greater investment in Sandford’s workforce and housing market.”
Except then as the official declaration – more like a literal foot in the door – Sanford seems to make short shrift of safety in favor of the real goal of bolstering the economy.
Not surprisingly but ironically on this first day of Summer was this rather heated caption for the photo of a policeman – hand on his holster – as he enters a home featured in the June 21 edition of “The Columbia Heart Beat”:
“A nation fed up with expensive, expansive city intrusions.”
The article accompanying the photo that addresses a possible class action in Columbia, Missouri “for all rental inspections performed without judicially-approved search warrants since the law was passed in 1978” is just the latest in a litany of litigations exposing the dirty laundry of municipalities muscling landlords out of their way – if not out of business.
Lest laundering landlords be labeled licentious, consider the verdict rendered by the Justices when in 2015 a Federal Court in Ohio ruled that rental property inspections and licensing fees – “indiscriminate and warrantless government inspections of rental properties,” and “unlawfully-extracted ‘rental inspection fees’’ – were unconstitutional:
“The physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed.”
But that’s not the half of it. More like a tenth of it as the piece by “Heart Beat Staff” highlights – or lowlights, depending on which side of the threshold of the rental being inspected you’re on – no less than nine other cases where cities have been or are being hauled into court only to be thrown out or soon to be thrown out on their collective posteriors for circumventing clearly written law not to mention harassing law abiding, conscientious, hardworking property owners.
One creative solution realized by one of those aforementioned ‘conscientious objectors’ to the onerous and intrusive rental inspection program was, rather than change the law, to force the resignation of the rental home inspector and issue recall petitions for Council members.
A similar opportunity exists for those soon forced to oblige entry for Lakewood approved inspectors when they come knocking: a vote.
Four of the seven city councilmembers who approved the Rental Housing Safety Program are up for election this November.