In other words, the city has to have a "reasonable legislative or administrative standard for conducting an area inspection." Unlike a criminal search warrant, the city does not have to have probable cause that a particular item or "instrumentality" of a crime will be found either on a particular person or in a particular location - they just need a reasonable purpose.. if a city ordinance says that, in order to get an inspection, the city has to inspect the property to make sure it is up to code, that is good enough for an administrative search warrant.
In Golden Valley, the Minnesota Supreme Court set out the requirements for a city to obtain an administrative search warrant:
Administrative search warrants must
1. be supported by probable cause; not individualized suspicion but “reasonable legislative or administrative standards for conducting an area inspection.” Camara, 387 U.S. at 538.
2. must identify the particular place to be inspected and must be “suitably restricted.” Id. at 539-40.
3. In the absence of a citizen complaint or a need for immediate entry, they must be issued only after entry is refused. Id.
4. are issued by neutral judicial officers, who must ensure that there is authority for the inspection, that reasonable standards exist, and that the inspection is not arbitrary. See Marshall v. Barlow’s, Inc., 436 U.S. 307, 323 (1978).
5. an administrative search warrant . . . does not authorize “a general, exploratory rummaging in a person’s belongings.” Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 467 (1971).
Further, the Minnesota Supreme Court cautioned that:"to protect tenants’ privacy interests, administrative search warrant procedures must include notice, an opportunity to be heard, and judicial consideration of reasonable restrictions on the inspection." Golden Valley, A15-1795.
But enough of this legal mumbo-jumbo – what does the decision in Golden Valley mean for landlords? In Golden Valley, the landlords did not consent to the search of their rental property because the city lacked "individualized suspicion" of a violation of the housing code. However, Golden Valley stands for the proposition that, so long as the city has a reasonable purpose – to ensure public health, welfare, and safety – in searching the rental property, the landlords' opposition to the search warrant application will be denied.
As such, I would probably not oppose an application for an administrative search warrant unless I had a very, very good reason for my opposition.
Every landlord – tenant situation is unique, and I recommend that landlords talk to an attorney experienced in evictions and landlord tenant law before taking action based on this blog post. To that end, I invite landlords to give me a call at 763-450-9494 to discuss their unique situation. The first thing I will ask you is what you want to have happen because, ultimately, the landlord is in control. I have represented many landlords, but typically do not represent tenants.
WARNING: The information contained in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation. Tim is licensed to practice law only in Minnesota, and the information contained in this blog post may not apply to jurisdictions outside of Minnesota. Further, reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog. To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.