A very important decision has just come down from the Court of Appeals of Minnesota involving the constitutionality of rental inspections. The case is McCaughtry v. City of Red Wing, 2012 WL 2077191, 2012. Landlords and tenants challenged the rental property inspection ordinance of the City of Red Wing which allowed inspections of property even if there was no evidence of a violation as long as inspectors obtained an administrative search warrant. The court said that:
Appellants have not established that the RDLC is unconstitutional on its face under the Minnesota Constitution on the ground that it permits the issuance of administrative search warrants by a judicial officer, without an individualized showing of suspicion that particular code violations exist in the rental dwelling to be inspected.
This case is significant given that rental inspections are crucial in fighting blight and crime. The landlords and tenants intend to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court so there may be further developments regarding this. It’s even possible this could go all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
One of the biggest problems facing local governments these days is finding the resources to maintain vacant properties. These homes are empty because of the foreclosure crisis and for the most part, lenders with mortgages on the property are reluctant to pay for the upkeep so the problem falls on the city, town or village. One would think that during the worst housing disaster in our life time, state government would help local governments deal with these properties by passing legislation that makes it easier to hold lenders responsible. Unfortunately, in Illinois, little is being done by the General Assembly. Bills that would help us fail year after year. At least now we have some information as to why it’s so difficult. The Chicago Tribune this week published a long article detailing how the Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, represents numerous banks in his private legal practice. In Illinois he pretty well controls what legislation sees the light of day and what bills do not. When I travel out of the state to do trainings, I am ashamed to say that I am from Illinois when I hear what other states are doing. For example, in some other states, if the local government cuts the grass, the cost goes on next year’s tax bill. When the taxes are paid, the local government gets paid. That doesn’t happen in Illinois. There is a law the purports to allow this process but it was drafted as to be unenforceable. Illinois is becoming a punchline to a joke that isn’t very funny.