Lawsuit prompts city to drop mandatory home inspections

City council members in Zion, Illinois, have abandoned their demands that landlords and renters submit to mandatory home inspections after a lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of the plan.

The Institute for Justice announced recently that the council “amended its rental inspection law, which will no longer punish landlords or tenants who refuse to open their doors for rental inspections without a search warrant.”

The change was adopted unanimously.

It came after the IJ, on behalf of landlord Josefina Lozano and her tenants, Dorice and Robert Pierce, went to court to challenge the demand.

“We are pleased our Fourth Amendment right is being recognized and not invalidated by a local government law,” said Robert Pierce. “This was a matter of principle for us, the Fourth Amendment is just as important as the First and Second Amendments. We are law abiding citizens and have lived in this home since 2000. We feel it is important we are comfortable with whom we allow into our home and the reason for entry.”

The city had wanted to fine landlords up to $750 per day if their tenants refused to open their residences for various “inspections.”

Now, landlords have the right to ask city inspectors to get a warrant before they conduct such inspections, and those warrants will allow oversight of the program, as well as presumably including a reason for the inspection.

“Just because someone chooses to rent their home doesn’t mean they lose their right to privacy and security in their personal space,” said IJ Attorney Rob Peccola. “If the government wants to look through someone’s home, they need a warrant. It’s good to see Zion get rid of its outrageous system of punishing people with massive fines simply for standing up for their constitutional rights.”

The institute reported it was back in 2019 when the city “attempted to conduct warrantless inspections at several properties owned by Josefina. Her tenants refused the inspections, because they didn’t want government officials snooping around in their most intimate and private spaces.”

Then the city threatened the landlord.

But the lawsuit followed and this week’s reform makes official the right of all to not be penalized if they request a warrant before opening their doors.

WND reported when the case was filed it focused on the Fourth Amendment’s protection of the right for Americans to be protected from searches and seizures.

When the plan was adopted, the mayor at that time blamed the city’s poor financial health on an “overabundance of non-owner-occupied rental property,” the institute said.

The mayor argued renters “often do not take care of their property like homeowners do, so this ordinance targets rentals only.”

But constitutional rights do not depend on a property’s ownership, IJ said.

The Supreme Court has held that such mandatory inspections can be allowed “but only if the inspector first obtains an administrative warrant,” IJ said.

Zion officials, however, refused to do that.

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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