A tenant in Dubuque is fighting a routine inspection by the city that he says violates his Fourth Amendment right.
Tenant Peter Swanson is speaking specifically about the amendment's safeguard against unreasonable searches.
Dubuque has some 8,000 rental properties in the city, according to Housing and Community Development Department director Alvin Nash. City code requires any property to undergo an initial inspection upon becoming a rental unit. The city inspects it every five years thereafter.
Swanson moved with his wife and two young children to Dubuque in mid-October for a job here. Swanson's landlord applied for a rental license and therefore, according to code, had to allow the city to inspect the property. Swanson and his family, however, had already moved in at that point.
"I was uncomfortable with that. I have a wife and kids at home during the day and I'm not a fan of people coming when I'm not present," Swanson said Thursday. "I also don't like the invasion of my privacy and our privacy by the government."
Swanson said, no, he has nothing to hide, he just sees the inspection as a violation of his Fourth Amendment right, "The right of people to privacy and security. Their persons, houses, papers and effects shall not be violated but upon probable cause and some other conditions, and there is none here."
"There's a special space within the country that's yours and you're the king in it, and there needs to be extreme circumstances to enter that against the will of the people that occupy that space," Swanson said.
Over at the city's Housing and Community Development office, Nash said the inspection happens at every rental property.
"In order to get a license, you have to agree that we would inspect the unit, and then once we inspect it the first time we put it on a five year cycle, so we inspect it every five years," Nash said. "The biggest reason for the inspection is safety."
The city looks for items such as code violations and other things that would possible render a rental property unsafe.
"They said it will take about 15 minutes," Swanson said, referring to the inspection. "That's not the big deal, you know. It's a minor inconvenience. But it's the principle of someone coming in your home against your will that's at issue here."
"I'm hoping in this case the landlord and the tenant will work things out and we can go ahead and do the inspection and move on," Nash said.
Swanson is sure this won't just go away, and Nash said the inspection is not an optional thing.
Swanson said he plans to fight the inspection as far and as high as it will go. He has contacted groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union to help him.
He rescheduled the inspection several times. As of Thursday afternoon, no new inspection had been scheduled.
For more on the city's housing inspection information, click HERE.
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