A lawsuit against the city of Highland, California, for carrying out warrantless searches of homes – under the threat of eviction – has been resolved with the municipality’s decision to back down.
“The city of Highland has rescinded its unconstitutional scheme that attempted to coerce landlords and tenants into allowing [the] government to inspect their rental homes without a warrant,” explained the Pacific Legal Foundation.
“It is gratifying that our lawsuit achieved its goal – forcing Highland to stop violating the Fourth Amendment by pressuring landlords and tenants into allowing warrantless government snooping on their property,” said Meriem Hubbard, a senior attorney for the foundation.
“Highland’s coercive policy was so outrageous – and our constitutional case against it was so powerful – that the mere filing of our lawsuit eventually caused the city to abandon the scheme.”
The foundation is asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed because the dispute has been resolved.
WND reported last year the city’s demand to force rental property owners and tenants to volunteer to have city officials search and inspect the properties.
Pacific Legal explained that Highland was demanding to inspect all 4,800 rental properties in the city regardless of whether there had been any complaints about them.
“To cut corners in this overwhelming task, officials are attempting to evade the Fourth Amendment requirement for obtaining administrative warrants to conduct inspections. Instead of going to a court and showing cause to receive such permission, the city is attempting to bully property owners and tenants into allowing inspectors in without a warrant,” the original complaint explained.
The complaint was filed on behalf of Karl Trautwein and tenants in his rental properties.
He owns several homes and “takes pride in maintaining them to a high standard and keeping tenants satisfied, and he objects to baseless, uncalled-for intrusions by government bureaucrats,” the legal team explained.
But when he and the tenants in one of his rental homes in Highland refused an open-ended inspection of the property, the city issued a threat. Trautwein was charged a “re-inspection fee” and informed that his rental license would not be renewed if he continued to refuse to allow a warrantless entry.
“The Fourth Amendment is a core constitutional protection for privacy and property rights,” PLF attorney Wencong Fa explained at the time. “The city of Highland is trying to strong-arm Mr. Trautwein and his tenants into surrendering this precious constitutional right, by holding Mr. Trautwein’s rental license hostage. Mr. Trautwein is being hit with what the law calls an ‘unconstitutional condition’ – either he and his tenants give up their Fourth Amendment protection from warrantless government invasion of their property, or Mr. Trautwein’s license to rent will not be granted.”
The case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
“My federal lawsuit has caused the city of Highland to shut down its unconstitutional interior inspection program,” said Trautwein. “Tenants in Highland will no longer have strangers violating their privacy. Landlords in Highland will no longer be subjected to unreasonable searches of their property. Highland’s limited code enforcement resources can focus on real problem cases. This is a great victory for all – landlords, tenants, and the city. Mandatory searches of rental interiors are never necessary. Existing code enforcement and free market mechanisms already address any health and safety issues.”