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CITY RENTAL LAWS: Violate city privacy laws. Contradiction illustrates legal conundrum

Rental occupancy ordinances disregard rental privacy ordinances. How on Earth did this happen?

COLUMBIA, 6/15/13 (Beat Byte) -- Columbia ordinances regulating rental property conflict with Columbia ordinances requiring search warrants.
 
The strange contradiction further illustrates a legal conundrum that surfaced in February, when Columbia City Council members unanimously passed a law requiring rental property owners and managers to "immediately exhibit, upon request by a police officer or city inspector investigating any code violation, all lease, rental payment, and tenant information."

Landlords who screen tenants routinely access confidential credit, employment, Social Security, and income information subject to the new law's search provisions, which may also violate the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution.

"It's over-reaching and probably unconstitutional," attorney Skip Walther told the Council, on behalf of the Columbia Apartment Owners Association (CAA).  
 
Oddly enough, two other city laws guarantee 4th Amendment rights for both landlords and tenants. 
 
Entitled Search Warrant, Columbia city ordinance 22-189 required city officials to comply with the Constitution's prohibitions against unlawful search when property managers apply for so-called "rental occupancy permits." 
 
The search warrant ordinance spells out six requirements inspectors and police officers must meet before they can search a rental property, including securing a probable cause statement and a judge's signature.
 
Violation of even a single requirement voids the search warrant.  A follow-up ordinance, 22-190, makes it "unlawful for any person to refuse entry or access to any unit" only if a search warrant has been obtained.
 
The Search Warrant ordinances conflict with city laws mandating searches and inspections without a warrant.   Before landlords can receive legally required rental occupancy certificates, they "must consent to inspection by inspectors at all reasonable times upon request by a city inspector," say city ordinances 22-186 and 22-187.  The consent is notarized on the city's certificate application.
 
Notably absent from the consent process:  renters -- and the US Constitution.
 
The "Occupancy Disclosure Ordinance" -- 22-184 -- goes even farther, requiring rental property owners and managers to turn over "all tenant information" to a police officer or city inspector, no search warrant required.
 
The Columbia Board of Realtors has joined CAA to challenge the Occupancy Disclosure Ordinance, partly based on its un-Constitutional provisions. 
 
 
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