Can government inspect your home at any time? Now we know

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A fight over a city’s demand that its inspectors could charge into rental units and examine the personal contents of renters at any time has ended with a consent degree that forbids such invasions.

The Institute for Justice announced the legal finale to the fight when a federal judge approved a consent decree that “mandates that the city of Zion, Illinois, will no longer punish renters or landlords who refuse to open their doors to warrantless rental inspections.”

WND reported a few months ago the effective end of the fight when council members there changed their city code to remove the demands.

The amendment was adopted unanimously, and came after the IJ, on behalf of landlord Josefina Lozano and her tenants, Dorice and Robert Pierce, went to court to challenge the demand.

At the time, Robert Pierce, an IJ lawyer, said, “We are pleased our Fourth Amendment right is being recognized and not invalidated by a local government law. This was a matter of principle for us, the Fourth Amendment is just as important as the First and Second Amendments. We are law abiding citizens and have lived in this home since 2000. We feel it is important we are comfortable with whom we allow into our home and the reason for entry.”

The city had wanted to fine landlords up to $750 per day if their tenants refused to open their residences for various “inspections.”

Now, landlords have the right to ask city inspectors to get a warrant before they conduct such inspections, and those warrants will allow oversight of the program, as well as presumably including a reason for the inspection.

“Just because someone chooses to rent their home doesn’t mean they lose their right to privacy and security in their personal space,” said IJ Attorney Rob Peccola. “If the government wants to look through someone’s home, they need a warrant. It’s good to see Zion get rid of its outrageous system of punishing people with massive fines simply for standing up for their constitutional rights.”

The fight began in 2019.

The IJ said the judge’s ratification of the consent decree, which was negotiated between the parties, should end the case.

“This consent decree is a massive victory for the basic privacy rights and property rights of renters and landlords in Zion,” Peccola said just days ago when the judge’s ruling was released.

“If the government wants to pry into your personal spaces, revealing intimate details about your life, it should have to get a warrant.”

The IJ said, “[The] consent decree ensures that the city will never again fine individuals who refuse inspections and ensures that landlords and tenants have a right to decline opening their doors to city officials without a warrant.”

The Supreme Court has held that such mandatory inspections can be allowed “but only if the inspector first obtains an administrative warrant,” IJ said.

Zion officials, however, refused to do that.

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