Rental ordinance violates Constitution

Published 4:49 pm Saturday, February 21, 2009

The new rental inspection and licensing program in Albert Lea is a travesty. A government entity has no business infringing on the privacy and the rights of its citizens in their own homes.

In order for the government to enter the home of even a hardened criminal, there must be probable cause and even then, there is due process before a warrant is issued. No such protection is given to the rights of tenants unfortunate enough to live in Albert Lea.

Non-homeowners will soon be required to submit to an inspection of their private property in order for their landlord to receive a rental license. The question remains: Why?

Email newsletter signup

There does not have to be a complaint that the housing code was violated. There does not have to be any cause or reason to suspect that the living conditions are unsafe. All there needs to be is an appointment made.

At that point it is apparently my job as a landlord to coerce my tenants into allowing the entry of some city inspector? Regardless of any inconvenience it may pose?

I wonder, when would it be a good time for someone to come into your home and rummage around. Perhaps members of the city council should have been asked that question before they decided to pass this foolhardy measure.

The time and money spent formulating, debating and discussing how to institute this rental inspection program was a complete waste. There are already housing code laws in existence that accomplish the exact same thing.

For a fraction of the cost and effort we could have made the citizens of Albert Lea better informed of them and worked within the legal structure that was already in place. But no, we must pass new laws; it gives us something to do.

Perhaps a member of the Albert Lea hierarchy should read the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution before someone decides to sue us. Other cites across the country already have been sued for their rental inspection programs; maybe we will be next.

In the meantime, I will follow the rules and pay the fees for my license. That does not change the fact that this program is just a bad idea and what’s more, it is wrong. And it cannot be justified merely by pointing to some perceived good that could come from it.

Brian J. Anderson

Albert Lea