Unconstitutional Rental Inspection Laws

The Institute for Justice (“IJ”) recently filed a case challenging as unconstitutional a rental inspection law in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. From the IJ website:

Pottstown, Pennsylvania has a rental inspection law that forces landlords and tenants to open their properties and homes to submit to intrusive inspections. This ordinance allows the government to enter the most intimate confines of tenants’ homes—including bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and closets—in search of housing code violations, even when landlords and tenants object. 

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And Pottstown’s rental inspection program is not unique. Rental inspection programs have become increasingly common in Pennsylvania and across the country.  These programs give the government the green light to conduct blanket searches of innocent people’s homes without their consent and are an end-run around constitutional protections for property rights.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution guarantee property rights and the right to privacy in the home. That is why the Institute for Justice has teamed up with a Pottstown landlord and his tenants to file a lawsuit challenging the government’s use of administrative warrants to search the homes of ordinary people who do not want inspectors inside. Their lawsuit does not seek to prevent tenants from inviting inspectors inside if a problem with their home has gone unaddressed by their landlord. They have filed this lawsuit to stop the government from entering private property without truly voluntary consent or a warrant that is based upon traditional probable cause.

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The Institute for Justice is the national law firm for liberty and the nation’s leading advocate for property rights. IJ has successfully challenged rental inspection programs in Park Forest, Illinois and Yuma, Arizona, and is currently waiting for a decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court regarding Golden Valley, Minnesota’s use of administrative warrants to inspect rental homes.