The United States Declaration of Independence makes the role of government clear: preserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But what happens when these basic tenets are broken? Residents of Red Wing, Minnesota, allege the city is doing just that, and brought the question before the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The residents argue a law allowing inspection of property without evidence of code violations or consent of the owner is in violation of basic property rights.
Details of Red Wing Rental Inspection Program
The law applies specifically to rentals, and allows entrance against objections by the tenant. If a tenant or landlord does not consent to the search, the city can apply for an administrative warrant.
If the warrant is granted, an agent of the city can enter the property without consent to conduct the inspection.
Minnesota Supreme Court Decision and Current Status
Nine landlords and two tenants filed suit challenging the inspection law. The case was tied up in the system for five years by procedural issues. But the Supreme Court of Minnesota eventually allowed the case to move forward.
Initially, the Minnesota Court of Appeals held they were unable to decide the case due to a lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court recently ruled otherwise, calling for application of The Declaratory Judgments Act (the Act).
The Act allows "challenges to the validity of a municipal ordinance that affects the rights of a person." The court found this piece of legislation applied, and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for a determination on the rental inspection program.
Overall Affect on Property Rights in Minnesota
The decision on the constitutionality of the rental inspection program now rests in the hands of the Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, residents continue to fight the use of administrative warrants to search their property.
Such searches can be opposed by filing a challenge to the administrative warrant.
If a city official is attempting to inspect your property, it is important to contact an experienced real estate attorney to protect your legal rights.