Interior Inspections in Missouri – HB 1189

Nine members of the Missouri Property Owner Association and Sam Licklider (the Lobbiest for the Missouri Realtors) traveled to Jefferson City on Wednesday April 5th to testify before the Local Government Committee on behalf of Gary Cross’ House Bill 1189.

No city or county shall adopt, enforce, or maintain a residential property licensing ordinance or resolution that includes a requirement for periodic interior inspections of privately owned residential property for city or county code violations unless the lawful occupant has consented to such interior inspections. This subsection shall not apply to inspections of mixed-use residential and commercial property. This subsection  shall not prohibit a city or county from conducting plan reviews, periodic construction  inspections, or final occupancy inspections as required by building permits. 
 
 Any lawful occupant residing in privately owned residential housing located within the corporate limits of a city may request an inspection at any time by the city or, if the property is located in the unincorporated area of the county, by the county to determine code violations.

We shared several key points:

Missouri HB 1189 would prohibit municipalities from enacting ordinances that require a businesslicense for individual rental property that is contingent upon an interior inspection of a privately-owned property without the consent of the lawful occupant.

This bill all started when Independence Missouri created an ordinance they call Rental Ready that will go into effect in June of 2017.  The ordinance requires all landlords to obtain a business license and a requirement of that business license is an inspection.  The landlord must pay for this inspection and if the tenant refuses the inspection, the city councils response was it was the landlords job to make the tenant comply.  If the tenant does not comply then the business license for that particular property will not be given and the landlord would then not be able to rent it out legally.

As property owners, we feel that forcing anyone to have an interior inspection of their home without consent, is a violation of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.

Similar laws have been found to be unconstitutional in other states, most recently in Columbus Ohio in Baker vs Portsmouth in 2015 in the US District Court (Federal) for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division.  The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law brought the case and said that their victory “ means that indiscriminate and warrantless government inspections of rental properties are unconstitutional nationwide, and that unlawfully-extracted “rental inspection fees” must be returned to the rental property owners who paid them.”

You may ask why a State Law to stop just one city.  Based on comments from the Independence City Council, their ordinance was copied from the city of Columbia Missouri and that all the 8 major cities in the Kansas City Metro area were watching Independence closely and plan to institute similar ordinances.  There are also numerous interior inspection rules across the state currently on the books and others being discussed and we want to make sure none are violating our tenants 4thAmendment Rights.

This bill is about interior inspections without the consent of the tenant and the licensing of rentals based on said inspections.  It would not have any effect on city codes inspections, occupancy permits, or inspections that are a part of subsidized housing like Section 8.

We are only asking that lawfully renting properties not be contingent upon an inspection without the consent of the tenant.  If the tenant refuses, our only options are to evict the tenant which is very costly and probably open the landlord up to being sued by the tenant or to operate the rental illegally.  It seems we are caught between Federal Law, State Landlord Tenant Law and City Ordinances.

What Happened?

After Gary Cross Explained the bill to the Committee, the committee asked questions of Gary and asked for comments from us.  We shared our comments and answered the questions as mentioned above.  Several in the committee were on our side and shared the same thoughts that we shared.  One even read the 4th Amendment to the group.  The lone dissenter was from St Louis and his worry was that while the bill seemed really great and all, that it would affect the Interior Inspection Rules already in practice in St Louis.

The next day we were notified that two of the committee members from St Louis would be willing to vote for the bill, but only if amended to exclude St Louis.  It seems that the 4th Amendment is fine and all, but not for Rental Tenants in St Louis.

We are asking that all of our readers who are voters in St Louis to reach out to these two committee members and voice your opinion and if you know a voter in St Louis to ask them to reach out ASAP.  The Committee should vote on the bill next week and we need the whole committee voting yes, including those from St Louis.  So reach out to Joe Adams and Fred Wessels if you are a voter from St Louis.

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