FILE - rental property

(The Center Square) – A new inspection ordinance in Orange City has garnered a lawsuit from landlords and renters who feel it violates their constitutional private property rights.

The city’s ordinance requires a housing inspector to enter any house for rent every five years to ensure the house "shall be consistent with the applicable building codes," the Des Moines Register reported.

Led by the Institute for Justice along with renters Bryan Singer and Erika Nordyke and landlord Josh Dykstra, the lawsuit argues that Orange City’s ordinance is worse than most because it is too vague, the article stated.

"Orange City’s ordinance is worse than average because it gives such broad and expansive discretion to inspectors when they enter a home without permission," attorney Rob Peccola said, as reported by the Register.

The plaintiffs do not like that the city can enter their home without permission and without any evidence of a violation, the article stated. They also object to a building inspector entering their home for security reasons.

“The purpose of the ordinance is intended to provide a safe and healthy environment for residents of our community," city administrator Earl Woudstra told the Register.

Andrew Lietzow, executive director of Iowa Real Estate Investors & Iowa Landlord Association, said he doesn’t see this ordinance as a big concern. He notes according to Iowa law landlords have a responsibility to “maintain a habitable residence.”

“It’s kind of difficult to think about the rights of a private property owner who owns a rental property outside of the context of the fact that there are many laws that impinge on the housing provider that [is] there to ensure the public safety,” Lietzow told The Center Square.

Lietzow also doesn’t think the plaintiffs’ security concerns over building inspectors entering the home hold much water.

“A city inspector is not just any stranger, they’re trying to enforce an ordinance that the public has enabled the city to put in place,” he said.

If a city has more than 15,000 people, it is required by state law to have such an inspection ordinance in place; it becomes optional with populations between 10,000 and 15,000, according to Lietzow. Orange City’s population is under 7,000. 

Lietzow said he would be curious to know what prompted Orange City to institute such an ordinance, as such rules usually crop up around complaints of wrongdoing more common in larger municipalities.

“I believe if I talked to my members, they’d say ‘Yes, we’d prefer if we didn’t have to be inspected, but the reality is there’s a few bad actors that can cause us to be in the newspapers for all the wrong reasons,’” he said. “I guess I don’t see it as such a big stretch to think that the city of Orange City has made a decision to inspect and then issue permits for occupancy.”