Officials OK changes to rental codeRed Wing City officials approved changes to the city’s rental code Monday in the hopes they will break the legal gridlock surrounding the ordinance.
By: Jon Swedien, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing City officials approved changes to the city’s rental code Monday in the hopes they will break the legal gridlock surrounding the ordinance.
The Red Wing City Council voted unanimously to introduce the code’s new language. The proposal could be finalized at the council’s next meeting.
The changes alone however, won’t remedy the legal strife. It appears a judge will have to rule on the code.
A group of landlords and tenants who oppose rental property inspections mandated by the code say the changes don’t matter.
Their attorneys, from the public interest law firm the Institute for Justice, released a statement that said the code is unconstitutional despite the changes.
Currently the parties are in a pre-trial phase and expect a hearing in January or February of next year.
Many of the changes to the code reflect the city’s need to address privacy concerns outlined by First District Court Judge Timothy Blakely, who in May dismissed the city’s request for administrative search warrants.
The warrants would’ve allowed the city to inspect the properties of landlords and tenants unwilling to allow searches.
The code’s new language forbids inspectors to take pictures, upload inspection documents to the city’s geographical information system on the Internet or share information with law enforcement unless required by law.
Regardless of the changes, Institute for Justice attorney Dana Berliner said there is no justification for mandatory inspections in Red Wing.
She added the code doesn’t do enough to limit where inspectors may look during searches and the language added to the code fails to adequately protect the privacy of tenants.
“I don’t think there’s a chance (the code) will survive the next round of judiciary scrutiny,” Berliner said.
Red Wing City Council member Mike Schultz said nothing about Red Wing’s code is out of line.
“This code is no different than any other city’s code in the state,” he said adding, the city is merely trying to provide citizens with safe housing.
As of May, the League of Minnesota Cities —which provides legal insurance to the city of Red Wing — has paid $369,436 in legal fees. Of that, Red Wing is liable for $81,525.
This is only the latest development in an almost four year struggle.
The code was instituted in 2005 and has since been challenged in lawsuits that have bounced between state and federal court.
Although three judges have ruled on the code, none have struck it down nor have they granted the city search warrants.