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Iowa Orange City’s Rental Inspection Ordinance Deemed Unconstitutional in Landmark Ruling for Tenant Rights

Iowa Orange City's Rental Inspection Ordinance (Photo: Bay Area Housing Law

Iowa Orange City’s Rental Inspection Ordinance Deemed Unconstitutional in Landmark Ruling for Tenant Rights

Orange City Landlords and Tenants Score Major Win in Challenge to Unconstitutional Home Inspections - Institute for Justice

An Iowa court has determined that the rental inspection ordinance in a western Iowa city unlawfully encroached upon the privacy rights of both tenants and property owners. (Photo: The Institute of Justice)

Iowa Court Finds Iowa Orange City Rental Inspection Ordinance Violates Privacy Rights of Landlords and Tenants

According to Marketplace article, Iowa court has ruled that the rental inspection ordinance in Iowa Orange City violated the privacy rights of both renters and landlords. This decision, resulting from a 2021 lawsuit filed by landlords and plaintiffs in partnership with the nonprofit Institute for Justice, contended that the newly enacted ordinance in Orange City, Iowa, encroached upon their state constitutional rights. The ordinance mandated city officials to inspect rental properties at least once every five years and authorized them to secure administrative search warrants for entry when access was denied.

The plaintiffs contended that granting government officials in Iowa Orange City the authority to enter private residences without evidence of wrongdoing constituted an unreasonable search, particularly as owner-occupied homes were exempt from similar inspection requirements. They also argued that the ordinance lacked restrictions on when inspectors could enter, what areas they could examine inside the home, and whether they could bring law enforcement or report suspected criminal activity. On August 31, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating that additional safeguards were needed in Iowa Orange City for evaluating administrative search warrants.

The court leaned on a Minnesota Supreme Court precedent, which required notifying tenants in Iowa Orange City of warrant petitions, offering them the chance to argue for warrant limitations, and informing them about law enforcement’s presence during searches. John Wrench, an attorney from the Institute for Justice, hailed the decision as a substantial win for renters’ civil rights in Iowa Orange City. He stressed the importance of municipalities in Iowa Orange City considering renters’ constitutional rights when enacting inspection ordinances, emphasizing that renting a home doesn’t diminish these rights.

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Iowa Orange City Rental Inspection Ruling Sparks Uncertainty and Constitutional Debate

Orange City’s response is pending, and the broader impact remains unclear. The Iowa League of Cities, which advises on rental housing codes, doesn’t track similar ordinances. There’s debate over whether this decision requires evidence for administrative warrants, differing from the U.S. Constitution.

Wrench noted the “administrative probable cause” requirement for warrants and the need for safeguards in the ruling. The decision affirms home sanctity, whether owned or rented.

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