Monday, January 7, 2013

Of Slumlords and Castles

Now that the arbiter of all that's important, The Dallas Morning News, has weighed in on the subject of home rental inspections in Richardson, I guess I have to, too. After all, the license every blogger is required to get specifically insists that he has to have a strong, uncompromising opinion on every subject, no matter how hard it is to get worked up over.

So, after the jump, my obligatory opinions on home rental registration.

On the one hand, a man's home is his castle. The Fourth Amendment is pretty clear on the matter:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Source: US Constitution.
Under that principle, unless there's probable cause of a crime, government has no business searching private property.

Somewhere along the line, Americans made an exception for inspecting, say, meat-packing plants, drug factories, restaurants, hotels, etc., for health and safety. Even private houses are inspected when significant remodelling is done. Today, government officials regularly inspect all of these. Administrative inspections have consistently been upheld by the courts. Administrative inspections require a lesser probable cause based on "a valid public interest justifying the intrusion," as opposed to a higher standard required for criminal investigative searches.

Where should rental homes fit into the picture? Many cities ("thousands" according to that The Dallas Morning News' story) believe that there's a valid public interest in ensuring that rental homes are safe, healthy and clean, much like there's a valid public interest in ensuring that the purchaser of food and drugs obtains safe, healthy and clean products.

Count me in that camp. Richardson shouldn't abandon its registration and inspection program. If an owner of a house wants to engage in commerce, he ought to be required to offer his product (i.e., his rental house) for inspection by independent professionals before he rents it to an unwitting consumer.

To be sure, the city should work with landlords and tenants to make the program as unobtrusive as possible. Landlords can inform potential renters that the house can be inspected either before the renter assumes occupancy or within 30 days after. Really, this isn't tyranny.

There, I have an opinion on the subject. Excuse me if I can't get worked up over the city trying to ensure health and safety in a way that imposes a minor inconvenience but offends the sense of Liberty of a very few.

1 comment:

Sassy Texan said...

I think it a bunch of busywork to keep city hall functioning for something to do. You know they have to find more fees to embellish an out of control budget. If they cannot manage their own business engagements profitably, why do they need to meddle in someone elses?

It has already been proven at the taxpayers expense that 1 home out of almost 700 had a minor issue. It is silly to spend so much time, effort, resources and writings on something that does not matter. If a tenant feels a home is not safe they move. And if a landlord thinks a tenant is up to no good in their property they remove the tenant.

Of course, we can hold on tight keep demanding the people we do not know are bad people and we must save the rest of the population from the bad that just doesn't exist.

Please Mark, are you really going to fall in that trap too? Virtually all investors want a productive property and work to maintain it so productivity continues.

Cheri Duncan-Hubert