Below is an open-letter discussion between apartment owner, Donald Kreiss and Bill Lindsay, the City Manager of Richmond regarding the Richmond Code Enforcement Program.
Letter to Bill Lindsay, City Manager of Richmond
Thanks you for your reassurance that the city of Richmond is willing to comply with the U.S. Constitution.
I disagree with your perspective based on my experience. In my situation, the tenant refused entry which is his right and the rental inspection board should have dropped the case at that time, however they did not. They sent me a notice requiring an inspection and fined me for the tenant’s failure to comply with their forced warrantless entry and forcing me to require the tenant to give up his fourth amendment rights.
I am just as concerned with the fact that the city has even wanted to explore skirting the ruling based on what counsel considers a technicality and that our city would even have the desire to intrude on a tenant’s right to the quiet enjoyment of their own home. Especially when the court ruled that the rental inspection program cannot require inspection of the interior, the exterior or even a vacant unit and also determined that the Code is not saved by special needs or the closely regulated industry exceptions. The Court concludes that the Code’s failure to include a warrant provision violates the Fourth Amendment.
Additionally you never answered my question – would you and the city attorney and the members and employees of the rental inspection program be willing to permit me to enter their homes any time I want with no just cause, no warrant and when entry is denied?
The other issue that I have is the insult of the city owning and operating a dysfunctional, uninhabitable, low quality apartment building and then having the audacity to question my building that does not currently and never during my watch had a violation. I am certain that it is better maintained than any of the homes of the people mentioned above.
I have forwarded my concerns to the State Attorney General’s office and will continue to follow my heart with my desire to press the city into respecting the rights of my tenants and me and dismantling the draconian rule that would insult the aforementioned government employees who seem to think that the good folks of the city of Richmond are too brain-dead to take care of their own issues with slumlords.
By the way, if you lived in a ghetto, uninhabitable apartment building, how hard would it be for you to vote with your feet? I really don’t mean to be harsh, however when a government agency attempts to over control any industry this is the quagmire that they drown in.
I would really like to see your group study the consequences of this program and the rent control program and understand how detrimental they are by looking at the cities that have instituted these types of programs.
Thank you for your time and please be so good as to answer the questions posed.
Richmond City Manager, Bill Lindsay’s Response
This is a follow-up to your email and our recent phone conversation. As we discussed, the City Attorney’s office has reviewed this issue and provided me with the following information (I believe someone from the City Attorney’s office also contacted you by phone):
I read the Federal case out of Ohio, along with the some relevant California cases (including a recent U.S. Supreme Court case), then printed and reviewed our rental inspection ordinance to confirm that it met the 4th Amendment warrant requirements (it does) and that it didn’t threaten criminal misdemeanor charges for refusing to submit to a warrantless search (it does not). Long story short, our ordinance does not suffer any of the infirmities of the Ohio ordinance, which clearly was unconstitutional on its face.
It will stand up to any challenge based on alleged violations of the 4th, 5th or 14th amendments. The unjust enrichment cause of action was brought under state (Ohio) law and isn’t even relevant. Unlike the City of Portsmouth’s city code, our ordinance requires we obtain a warrant prior to conducting any inspections when consent has been refused and even then we can’t get the warrant simply because someone refuses to allow the inspection unless we can articulate some evidence of a violation (nuisance, substandard housing, building code, etc. violation).
Thanks for contacting me about this issue. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or require any additional information. Sincerely, Bill Lindsay