Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Richardson City Council Backtracks on Rental Registration Program in a Big Way

The Richardson city council listened to Don Magner give a presentation on the rental home inspection program. It was about the history of it and where thing might go from here.

It was an interesting night. The council as usual appears to be deaf to complaints about the program and claims everyone they have talked to have been in favor of how the program has operated until now. In a way it reminds me how out of tough they are with the people’s concerns and how they all proclaimed that they had never heard any complaints about how the mayor was selected for the past 50 something years. A 75/25 vote should indicate to them they really don’t know what people want and are very much out of touch.

Back in October of 2003 the city council passed its first rental ordinance with the purpose being “to protect the vitality and integrity of the city…” by requiring a rental registration. That might sound like a noble goal but it does have a big downside, erosion of privacy rights that are guaranteed to all and equal protection under the law. A renter has become a second class citizen in Richardson primarily due to the requirement for an inspection to be performed within 30 days of a tenant moving in. It was changed to within 30 days of a new tenant moving in because Garland lost a lawsuit in which it required an inspection before a tenant moved in.

Richardson staff apparently is fairly proactive in trying to enforce this ordinance. They cross reference ownerships records with utility records, field inspectors look for and reports for lease or for rent signs, staff spend time on the web looking for online rental listings and checking out the listings in newspapers and other publications as well as citizen and tenant complaints.  “Orwellian behavior” comes to mind with them looking for those who don’t register and also the term “Nazi” comes to mind when it comes encouraging neighbor to turn on neighbors. It appears the days are gone when good neighbors mind their own business and who are now encourage turning in their neighbors.

Currently the inspection process requires that a property own must schedule an inspection within 30 days of a tenant moving in. The ordinance requires that the “tenant” must make the home available for the inspections.  If the tenant refuses to allow entry then the city inspection must get an administrative search warrant from the municipal judge. This differs with what happened in court. In a recent court case the owner of a property was charged with failure to make available a rent home where the tenant decided to not let the inspectors enter. The property owner did what they were supposed to do, setup the time and date for inspection. After doing that, the tenant refused to grant entry. After that, a criminal citation was issued. It seems Don Magner’s version of the ordinance is much different than what the city employees claimed in court.

From last night council meeting I am guessing that the city council and city staff are noticing that the winds are not blowing in their favor. They appear to know they have overreached with government actions and are now back peddling.  It appears they know the ordinance as written will not be upheld in the courts. As was done with the Gordon case the almost never present city attorney will probably move to quash the appeal as “moot”. This, of course, after 1,000’s of dollars have already been spent by the defendant to protect themselves in courts, and probably much more by the city on trying to enforce the ordinance. We really need a new city attorney who could probably give better advice.

The “Enhancement Consideration #2” last night would for the most part do away with the mandatory interior inspection, “Notice will also offer interior inspection.” That is a big change. As well, EC2 proposes an interior inspection when a tenant requests, observations indicate the need and tenant agree, and staff obtains an administrative warrant to conduct the inspection is tenant does not allow an interior inspection if the tenant does not consent to an requested interior inspection.

EC2 would also allow an exterior and interior if requested by the own if the property is vacant, if requested by a tenant and the property is occupied or if the city has probably cause and 1) the owner or tenant, as appropriate, consents or if no consent, an administrative search warrant is issued.

There are other parts of the exterior inspection leave some question as to how they will be done. There will be items on the exterior that cannot be easily viewed from public right-a-ways and may require permission to enter the property for inspection.



  1. It is an extraordinarily large waste of time to have staff snoop through the internet listings and drive bys to dig into the profiling of rentals. Once again Dunn speaks with the most illogical comments on this topic. Where does he come up with this stuff? He sounds more like the German militia every day.

    Magner is even worse.

  2. >the almost never present city attorney will probably move to quash the appeal as “moot”.

    I think that's what the city attorney discussed in executive session with the city council on July 22. It's my understanding that he filed a motion to dismiss the charge today.

    The city should compensate the two landlords for their legal fees.

    >It seems Don Magner’s version of the ordinance is much different than what the city employees claimed in court.

    Exactly! Prosecutor Wyatt, the city staff (including EA Hoppe) and some council members INSISTED that it was the landlord's responsibility to ensure that the inspection took place regardless of what the tenant said.


    And the city manager and the council kept saying
    "We followed the city attorney's preparation for the development of this ordinance. We're confident in the legal structure" (D. Johnson at council meeting of 1/14/13)

    "The city attorney reassures us that this is legal."

    As you said, this city attorney is not only costing Richardson taxpayers tons of money unnecessarily, but can and will make any citizen a criminal. HE SHOULD BE FIRED.

    >The council as usual appears to be deaf to complaints about the program and claims everyone they have talked to have been in favor of how the program has operated until now.

    Even with the proposed changes, the city didn't reach out to renters or landlords. Garland held several public hearings and set up a panel including landlords and realtors before they revised their rental ordinance and came up with the current program, which got community buy-in.

    You heard a council member saying "HOAs use the rental map to reach out to renters?" Then why does it have the "Report a Possible Rental " button?! (I have a rental in his area and I don't think anyone reached out to my tenants!)

    Something is wrong with anyone who doesn't find the city's rental map offensive--everyone I know does.

  3. Sounds to me like the cost of personnel and equipment to administer the police state is more than the fees and protection being extorted to pay for it. Don the magnamimous is just doing a little efficiency improvement so management can buy more gratuitous t-shirts and trinkets for the Council guppies.

  4. First they wanted info on my rentals purely to gather statistics. I complied.

    Then they wanted to do inspections of the interior of my tenants homes. I contacted the ACLU and considered making a stand but begrudgingly complied because my tenants didn't seem to care. One actually wanted it. If my tenants had stood their ground I was prepared to fight for their right too.

    Then they wanted a $50 fee. A landlord tax if you will. Which they promptly raised to $75. From here the next step is probably $100.

    I went and spoke before Richardson City council this year about how I didn't appreciate the City using me to trample on my tenants 4th amendment rights. The council head assured us that it had all been vetted by the city attorney so it was therefore constitutional. Yeah right.

    I have followed the court case with disbelief. I could not reconcile how the ordinance was written with how the City was prosecuting in court.

    I consider the dismissal of this case a win for we the people!

  5. No matter what they say, it is my private property we are leasing to a private person that wants to live like a normal person in a residential neighborhood on a private property.