Skip to comments.Man challenging Santa Cruz rental inspection program in court (creative financing vs privacy right)
Posted on 04/13/2011 10:22:56 AM PDT by SteveH
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- Political activist Harold Griffith is challenging the city's new residential rental inspection program in court. Both sides will appear before a Santa Cruz County Superior Court judge Wednesday morning for a case management conference.
According to the law, rental property owners would be required to register with the city either for city inspection or self-certification. In court documents, Griffith argues the program violates equal protection rights because it doesn't require inspection for all rentals. The ordinance, which passed last fall, states there are some exceptions, including "rooms rented to single individuals in an owner-occupied single family residence."
Griffith, who is representing himself, contends the program also violates the state constitution's right to privacy by "invading" legally protected privacy interests.
(Excerpt) Read more at allvoices.com ...
Is this a case of creative financing versus right to privacy? Since when must a citizen inform the state if he or she intends to rent or reside on a property he or she has bought? If he or she declines to keep the state informed of the status of his or her intent or actions in regards to the property, is that a crime? Is that an infraction? If the state subsequently passes an ordinance requiring a homeowner to keep the state informed of the intent of the homeowner in regards to his property, is that, in effect, an (unconstitutional) law? If citizens are required to update the state as to the intent of their occupancy of any and all properties that the citizens own, then where is the line drawn in terms of the right to privacy of the citizens? Could the state pass an ordinance requiring citizens to inform the state in advance every time the citizen might wish to use a state road to get groceries? To visit a girlfriend, boyfriend, relative, or drive to work or to a doctor's appointment? etc.
You always have the right to refuse entry to an inspector who comes without an inspection warrant and without advanced notice that the warrant was issued. See the US Supreme Court decision Camara v. Municipal Court 387 U.S. 523 (1967) here: http://www.constitution.org/ussc/387-523a.htm .
California has an inspection warrant statute, CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE SECTION 1822.50-1822.6. The catch is that the city does not need to have specific knowledge about the house to be inspected. An area-wide inspection program will satisfy the "cause" for the issuance of the warrant as long as the house in question is subject to the inspection program according to the terms of the program. However, courts in Minnesota have refused to grant inspection warrants for a similar rental inspection program due to concerns about (1) will inspectors share their observations with law enforcement if they incidentally see potentially illegal things, and (2) will inspectors be allowed to look inside of drawers, closets, and cabinets? Medicine cabinets can have a lot of highly personal information that law abiding people may want kept private from prying eyes who have no need to know, such as the kinds of prescription medications someone is taking. The Santa Cruz ordinance does not have any limitations on what the inspectors can look into when they are inspecting for code violations. Here's what the Minnesota judge said:
"The Court concludes that the warrant application submitted by the City does not, in present form, contain reasonable standards controlling the use and dissemination of the data collected during RDLC inspections to adequately protect the privacy of the citizens subject to inspection. Additionally, the scope of the RDLC is overly broad in that it grants inspectors too much discretion in deciding whether or not to search cabinets and closets. The Court concludes that the invasion the search entails outweighs the public interest at stake. Therefore, the warrant application presently before the Court is not reasonable. Thus, Camara-type probable cause has not been established. The Court cannot sign a warrant that is not supported by probable cause." [Minn. First Judicial District, Case Nos. 25-CV -08-1856, 25-CV-06-3391, 25-CV -08-1104 (Consolidated)]
There is an expressed right of privacy in the California Constitution. The California Supreme Court has said that government invasions of privacy must take the least invasive alternative. [Robbins v. Superior Court (1985) 38 Cal.3d 199, fn 20] Santa Cruz surely has less intrusive alternatives to the broad authority it has granted to code inspectors.
On January 17, I asked the city planning department about these privacy concerns because the City of Santa Cruz inspection ordinance has no such protections at all. The assistant planning director passed my message to the city attorney. So far, no reply, but it has only been 5 business days.
In Annapolis they charge $100 a year for a “rental license” and for that, the city sends out a drone (working hours only Mon-Fri landlord has to be there or arrange entry) to check whether the tenant has working batteries in his smoke detectors
Oh yes, and the property taxes are also double on non-owner occupied property
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what about the widespread practice of requiring “occupancy permits” to live in a building you own?
occupancy permits stop parents from allowing indigent kids to live in the garage.