Illegal Entry By City Officials

7 Replies

A friend of mine has a property management company and owns many buildings.  We recently received a notice from our city stating that they entered the unoccupied building and inspected it.  They sent a huge list of seemingly excessive repairs that are required of us for this building.  The list is extremely particular and includes things that seem frivolous. 

Normally, having a list of repair items would not seem to be a negative thing, but in this case, the inspectors entered the building without permission from the owner, notification of their intent to do so, or the knowledge of the owner.  The city officials had no valid reason for entering the building at all, yet they sent a long list of "violations" to the owner, with a date of when their "inspection" took place.  The inspection was dated for a date after the owner had acquired the property.  The owner had purchased the property at auction from the city about two months prior to this inspection taking place.  As of the date of their "inspection", no tenants resided in the building since the rehab team was in the process of conducting repairs.  So, in essence the city knew that no one lived there, knew he had just purchased the property and was conducting repairs, and they knew that nobody would be at the property, but they entered it without permission anyway.  

Am I crazy to think that they broke the law and then conveniently gave us proof of their crimes by giving us the list of things they want fixed?

I know its to our advantage to develop good relationships with the city inspectors but they seem to target my friend with many of his properties and have given him similar hassles in the past (although those were inspected with permission). We are aware that city inspectors are there to uphold codes, but they are excessive and seem to intentionally look for things to send "violations" for to my friend. As an investor myself, I can tell you that we do not have anywhere near the amount of trouble or violations from the city as my friend has... and the building we manage is in comparable condition to most of his buildings.

My question is this... is it illegal for city inspectors to enter a building without prior authorization from the owner? Anyone who has experience in these matters, your thoughts and advice would be appreciated.

Thanks :)

Was this building unsecured? how did they gain access? 

If they broke in, file a police report and complain to elected officials. However if he is mismanaging his properties to where they are unsecured and/or nuisance properties, he may be what some call a slumlord, which is the natural enemy of code enforcement (and the neighbors) 

It really depends on local laws. Where I live all sales require an inspection to determine if a COO can be issued. Period. If this was bought at auction they may have been waiting for compliance, may have been backlogged, or may have scheduled inspection as soon as the proper department was notified that a sale took place without an inspection.

Some places give a lot of leeway for authorities entering a property. It may very well also be possible that your friend is on their radar. This might be a good example as to why. If a COO inspection (or another inspection) is required upon sale, they may be thinking your friend is trying to get away with something. If this is a smaller area with a low number of inspectors, it's also possible that your friend rubbed the inspector the wrong way early on and is being targeted. My experience with inspectors is that you don't try to get them to see you way. They like to have the owner defer to their "expertise" and pushing back can get them to ding you for every little thing. Do something like that at the start of your relationship with them and they'll keep dining you until they forgive or forget.

Not saying its right, just that is can very well be reality. 

@PJ M. Thank you for your ideas on that. In the city my friend invests in there is no COO needed or requested. I think the other point you made is that simply they have him on their radar. The city has been burned before when individuals have large amounts of property (such as my friend). I think it makes the city nervous.

Might also b that they saw activity without permits pulled so they targeted the property.

Hard to know if this applies directly, but the US Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that if as a resident you choose not to let inspectors in, they need to get a warrant with probable cause from a judge, they can't simply arrest and/or fine you. Whether this applies to unoccupied property or a place of business is a good question.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camara_v._Municipal_Court_of_City_and_County_of_San_Francisco

People like to howl about threats to the 2nd amendment, but it's the 4th that is the most endangered. From stuff like this to swatting, our doors are no longer meaningful to authorities. I've had inspectors simply walk in a door left open by a tenant or contractor because a neighbor liked to call them every time he thought I was doing something he thought should have a permit.

Thank you Johann for your input on this.  I agree with you on this.  I think people that when people are uninformed of their rights sadly sometimes the authorities take advantage of that.  Many want to do the right thing but some people abuse lack of knowledge or abuse power.