ORANGE CITY, Iowa—Today, the Iowa District Court for Sioux County ruled that Orange City, Iowa’s law requiring mandatory inspections of rental properties within the city violates the Iowa Constitution. The ruling comes two years after the Institute for Justice (IJ) and a coalition of Orange City landlords and tenants filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance.
“Today’s decision striking down Orange City’s inspection ordinance is a major win for the basic privacy rights of all renters in Orange City,” said IJ Attorney John Wrench. “You don’t lose your constitutional rights because you rent your home, instead of owning your home.”
Orange City’s ordinance permitted the city to search tenants’ homes without their consent, by obtaining an “administrative warrant,” which did not require the city to show any sort of suspicion or particularized probable cause. In Thursday’s ruling, the court held that Orange City’s mandatory inspection law violated Article 1, Section 8 of the Iowa Constitution and could not stand.
“Our homes contain some of our most personal and intimate records and belongings, and those private materials should not be subjected to the government’s prying eye, unless they obtain a warrant based on something more than just the existence of the regulation—and seek that warrant in an adversarial proceeding, where the tenant can speak up for themselves,” said IJ Attorney Rob Peccola. “The administrative warrants in Orange City’s now-stricken mandatory rental inspection program did not meet these basic constitutional requirements, and nothing would stop inspectors from sharing tenant information with law enforcement.”
Erika Nordyke and her husband Bryan Singer live in a home they rent from their landlord, Josh Dykstra. Upon hearing about Orange City’s law requiring them to open their doors to city inspections without their consent, they teamed up with IJ to file the lawsuit.
“I’m incredibly happy that the city can no longer just come into my home without my permission and with any suspicion that I’ve done to search around,” said Erika. “I’m a private person and I don’t want strangers snooping around in my business.”
In its ruling, the court held that Orange City cannot obtain a warrant to search tenants’ homes without “some plausible basis for believing that a violation is likely to be found.” The court also held that tenants must be notified of the city’s application for a warrant and given the opportunity to advocate for restrictions on the search.