Renters’ Rights:

John Kramer
John Kramer · October 21, 2005

Washington, D.C.—Ruling that a Marietta, Ga., ordinance permitting inspection of apartments without probable cause violates a state statute, Judge J. Stephen Schuster of the Superior Court of Cobb County today struck down the ordinance and upheld the right of renters to be as secure in their homes as homeowners are in theirs. The judge did not rule on the constitutional issues raised in a challenge to the ordinance.

The City of Marietta had enacted an ordinance requiring landlords to obtain “rental licenses” for all rental properties. To obtain a license, landlords would have to hire and pay City-approved “rental housing inspectors” to inspect and certify the properties are in compliance with code. Nothing in the ordinance, however, required the landlord or the City to obtain the tenant’s consent before inspection. Yet, without inspection, no rental license would be issued, and the City Manager could order the property to be vacated. Residents who exercised their constitutional right to refuse a warrantless inspection therefore risked potential eviction.

To vindicate renters’ rights, the Institute for Justice along with local attorneys challenged the ordinance.

Clark Neily, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, which filed suit on behalf of rental tenants, said, “Contrary to the Mayor’s and City Council members’ apparent misconception, Marietta tenants enjoy the same rights as Marietta homeowners, including the right to be free from unreasonable searches. We’re pleased the court granted the motion for summary judgment in this case and that the rights of renters in Georgia are protected.”

In May 2004, the Superior Court of Cobb County issued a temporary restraining order preventing any further inspections. That order has remained in effect.

The Institute for Justice is a nonprofit public interest law firm that successfully challenged warrantless administrative searches in Park Forest, Ill. Through strategic litigation, training, communication and outreach, the Institute for Justice advances a rule of law under which individuals can control their destinies as free and responsible members of society. IJ litigates to secure economic liberty, school choice, private property rights, freedom of speech and other vital individual liberties and to restore constitutional limits on the power of government. The Institute was founded in September 1991.