Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lawsuit Seems to be Headed Richardson’s Way

At Monday night’s council meeting there were two speakers who spoke about the rental inspections. Once again they made the point that there was only one inspection failure out of 644 inspections:  A solution in search of a problem.

But the argument they made that hits home is that it still violates a person’s constitutional right to privacy. In Richardson, the renters don’t have the expectation of privacy, at least they don't with the current city staff and city council.

More and more landlords and renters will probably be getting more involved and end up filing suit over the rental inspection programs. There will be winners and losers from that action. The taxpayers will be the losers and the winner will be the lawyers. If the council were smart about this they would drop the ordinance.

Another odd thing about the law is the property owners are being penalized by renters refusing to allow city employees access to perform the inspections. Under the ordinance, the property owner is to schedule an appointment for the inspection, and then with the tenant’s permission, enter and perform the inspection. If the tenant refuses to allow the inspections in, the city issues an administrative inspection warrant. If the tenant refuses to allow the inspection to be conducted after the warrant is issued, then the property owner is cited and prosecuted.

In another odd twist of the ordinance, the warrant is issued by a municipal judge. As such, the judge is not a disinterested party. The judge is appointed by the city council. If he doesn’t go along with the council’s desire, he can be booted from the bench.

If you want to check out what the speakers had to say, go to the visitors section of this link: http://richardsontx.swagit.com/play/02112013-642

The right and expectation of privacy in a person’s home goes back a long ways.

The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter; the rain may enter, but the King of England cannot enter; all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!

William Pitt 1766


  1. A solution in search of a problem?
    Perhaps, a certification that a rental property is in good repair. Sounds like a marketing opportunity for landlords competing for tenants with properties in other cities.

  2. That's exactly what Garland does--rewarding good tenants and motivating them to register their rentals with the city. That increased registrations. (Of course, it happened only after the city lost the lawsuit and paid $90K for the plaintiff's legal fees.) Some of us are certified landlords in Garland without going through intrusive inspections.

    In case you don't know how the free market works, tenants vote with rents anyway. We don't need the city's approval to provide good housing. That's a good business practice.

    This is more entertaining, with a couple of tenants voicing opposition at being inspected especially by UNLICENSED city inspectors at the council meeting of Jan. 14
    http://richardsontx.swagit.com/play/01142013-630 (Item 4: Visitors)

    If the house blows up after an inspection or certification, is the city going to be liable?

    Of course, the city of Richardson treats rentals (or renters) like criminals (sex offenders?) to report.

    Great respect for renters whose health and safety the city wants to protect so badly!

  3. Have to love the bloated Richardson city government. One way to climb the ladder is to make jobs that expand your cadre of underlings. Good job, Magner.

  4. When are we going to inspect the rooms in residences rented to UTD students? They need to be safe too. Why the discrimination?

  5. What happened to the Constitution and all that jazz about protecting and defending it?

    Unreasonable search and seizure is acceptable in Richardson but not the United States?

    There must be more foreigners than U.S. citizens than in town. Or, more despots than democrats.

  6. >Unreasonable search and seizure is acceptable in Richardson but not the United States?

    You wouldn't believe what's really going on in Richardson. We've witnessed how city inspectors coerce tenants to agree to inspections.

    One was just coerced. The tenant refused by phone and in writing. The city didn't accept it and is continuing to prosecute his landlord. In turn, the landlord is coercing the tenant to agree to an inspection.

    In Richardson, renters (and landlords) have no constitutional rights, as suggested by the Institute for Justice.

  7. >If the council were smart about this they would drop the ordinance.

    I've heard the reason they won't drop it is their pride. They don't want to admit they were wrong. (Also, what are they going to do with all those inspectors they've hired?)

    If they think they're right, they'd be able to prove the effectiveness of the program they say they're periodically gauging. The only number they have provided so far is one out of 644 inspections failed in 2012.

    They're in a bind. If they fail more properties, more landlords will be upset; even those who aren't sensitive to constitutional rights will start protesting, as it was the case in Garland.

    There are many more landlords (and realtors) who aren't happy with the program than those who are publicly voicing opposition. Many comply while bitching about them. Without fear of prosecution or fine, more would resist inspections. Some are afraid that if they publicly oppose, they will be hit hard when their rentals are inspected. (What a great city, using "fear" to silence its citizens!)

    >The taxpayers will be the losers and the winner will be the lawyers.

    No doubt about it. City Manager always says "The city attorney assures that the city is doing everything legally." (Garland's city manager said the same thing to the city council in 2005.)

    Of course, the city attorney (or his law firm) will make money if they have to defend the city once sued. City Manager and his underlings don't care. It's not their money that will be wasted on lawsuits.

  8. If property values were not in the tank, we could sell this POS house and leave this POS town. I hear the banks are starting to allow short selling without penalty. That sounds fair to me. Time to get out of this one-horse town.