ZION, Ill.—Earlier this week, the Zion City Council amended its rental inspection law, which will no longer punish landlords or tenants who refuse to open their doors for rental inspections without a search warrant. The reform was passed unanimously by the City Council in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of landlord Josefina Lozano and her tenants, Dorice and Robert Pierce, by the Institute for Justice (IJ).
“We are pleased our Fourth Amendment right is being recognized and not invalidated by a local government law,” said Robert. “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.”
Previously, the city’s law subjected landlords to fines of up to $750 per day—with a track record of astronomical six-figure fines piling up—if their tenants refused to open their doors for rental inspections. Now, landlords have the right to ask city inspectors to get a warrant before they conduct such inspections.
“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.”
In 2019, Zion officials attempted to conduct warrantless inspections at several properties owned by Josefina. Her tenants refused the inspections, because they didn’t want government officials snooping around in their most intimate and private spaces. Following the refusal, the city threatened Josefina with fines that could total in the six figures. Instead of rolling over and allowing their rights to be infringed upon, Josefina, Dorice and Robert teamed up with IJ to challenge the law in federal court.
Following the initial filing of the lawsuit, the city agreed to stop enforcement against Josefina and her tenants. But this week’s reform codifies the right of all tenants to not be penalized if they request a warrant before opening their doors to city officials.