The Review > News
Landlords angry over city proposal
Some say new code would violate Fourth Amendment rights
By Erica Cohen
Published: Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 03:10
On Monday, Newark City Council will vote on additions to the 2009 International Building, Property Maintenance and Fire Code. Among other provisions, the additions would require landlords to add a clause to leases compelling tenants to agree to any future inspections by city officials.
The changes have sparked concerns among landlords and students who believe these new provisions may violate Fourth Amendment rights.
"It violates the Fourth Amendment by ignoring the fact that tenants have a right to refuse entry by a governmental entity," said landlord John Bauscher, who owns property on Madison Drive.
The current code states that the city's right to inspect residences must be consistent with the U.S. constitutional law.
The 1967 Supreme Court case Camara v. Municipal established that the Fourth Amendment safeguards the privacy and security of individuals against arbitrary inspections by governmental officials.
If officials wish to enter a private residence, they must convince a judge there is a valid reason to enter the home, and if the judge agrees to issue a warrant, then inspectors can enter.
"What this ordinance is trying to do is get people to sign off their Fourth Amendment rights," Bauscher said. "Tenants have a right to refuse entry."
Richard Morse, the legal director of the ACLU of Delaware, said he believes a code change forcing landlords to add such clauses to their leases is an attempt to circumvent tenants' constitutional rights.