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Nanny State of the Week: Town inspection checks whether you cleaned your toilet

By   /   February 8, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 68 of 80 in the series Nanny State of the Week

Local officials in a Minnesota town want to make sure their residents are keeping a tidy home.

And, like a mother with a son who tries to hide everything under his bed instead of actually cleaning his room, they’re coming up there to have a look around, so everything better be clean or you’re grounded, mister.

Shutterstock image

GIVE IT A GOOD SCRUB: Officials in one Minnesota town are willing to spend more taxpayer money on an appeal after they were told they can’t inspect rental properties without a good reason.

Two landlords in Golden Valley, Minnesota, who recently found themselves on the receiving end of inspections from city housing officials now find themselves dragged into court to defend their right to privacy. They say they were within their rights to block what the city calls a mandatory inspection of rental properties.

Even after one Minnesota judge ruled that Golden Valley can’t conduct inspections without a good reason, the city is spending more taxpayer money on an appeal.

“We’ve done nothing wrong and we have nothing to hide,” said Jason Wiebesick, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “The city of Golden Valley shouldn’t be allowed to force its way into innocent people’s homes.”

The city sees things differently. It requires a complete inspection of rental properties – all the way down to checking on the cleanliness of the kitchen and the bathroom – as part of a license renewal process that all landlords must go through periodically.

Jason and his wife, Jacki, say the city should have to provide evidence of wrongdoing before they’re allowed to stomp through a private residence. When inspectors showed up in April 2015, the Wiebesicks, and their current tenants, told them to go away.

Instead, the city went to Hennepin County Court, seeking an administrative warrant to search the property. Unlike a criminal warrant, an administrative warrant does not require evidence of wrongdoing.

In September, though, a district judge sided with the Wiebesicks and blocked the warrant.

Photo courtsey Institute for Justice

NOTHING TO HIDE: Jason and Jacki Wiebesick say they have done nothing wrong and should not have to give the city government access to their rental properties. A district court judge agreed.

At a hearing, the city admitted they had “no individualized suspicion supporting its warrant application,” wrote Judge Susan Robiner. Given previous state Supreme Court decisions balancing privacy with similar home inspection laws in other cities, Robiner concluded that Golden Valley must show “at least some level of individualized suspicion to issue a warrant allowing the government to search one’s home.

But the nannies in Golden Valley won’t take “no” for an answer – they’re pushing the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. It seems they really, really want to poke around inside the Wiebesick’s properties, and they’re willing to spend taxpayer money to keep the case going.

What’s at stake is a simple matter of making sure we have safe housing that meets minimal standards,” Golden Valley Fire Chief John Crelly told WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. Crelly says the inspections often turn-up code violations and safety concerns that catch tenants and landlords by surprise.

But there’s nothing stopping tenants or landlords from requesting inspections, it’s the automatic nature of them that has the Wiebesick’s upset.

Golden Valley’s rental ordinance gives inspectors access to every part of the home, including the bathroom and bedroom. If inspectors see anything they think might be illegal, they can hand it over to law enforcement – without the police having to get a separate warrant first.

The whole thing is “a fundamental violation of the Minnesota Constitution’s protection against illegal searches,” says Anthony Sanders, a senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that has stepped in to represent the Wiebesick’s in front of the state Court of Appeals.

“The mere fact that someone rents a home, rather than owns it, should not give the government the right to disrupt their life, invade their privacy and search every nook and cranny of their home—all without providing a shred of evidence that anything is wrong,” Sanders said in a statement from IJ.

Privacy is a concept often lost on the enforcers of the nanny state’s rules. Residents, believe it or not, aren’t like children who can be told they must clean their rooms before going outside to play.

Part of 80 in the series Nanny State of the Week
  1. Nanny-state state of the week: MD may become first to ban Vaportinis
  2. Nanny-state city of the week: Minneapolis wants to ban take-out trays
  3. Skim is in: CT lawmakers want to ban whole milk in day cares
  4. Nanny state of the week: Fairfax, VA, wants to limit the right to assemble
  5. Nanny state of the week: SC — and Schumer — for duplicative efforts to ban powdered alcohol
  6. Nanny of the Week: Virginia hoses down car wash fundraisers
  7. Nanny of the Week: Even a summertime trip to the beach can’t be nanny-free
  8. Nanny of the week: Federal authorities think feral cats can read signs
  9. Nanny of the week: Cambridge wants to ban ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft
  10. Nanny-stater of the week: NY lawmaker wants to ban photos with tigers
  11. Nanny-stater of the Week: Who needs cupcakes and candy? Here, have a pencil
  12. Nanny-stater of the week: Fargo limits kids to less than four shots of juice per day
  13. Nanny-stater of the week: Wisconsin towns fight repeal of bow ban
  14. Nanny of the week: No fun in the sun, thanks to Congress and FDA
  15. Nanny-stater of the week: DOT to ban cell phone use on planes
  16. Nanny of the week: The out-of-control trend of arresting non-helicopter moms
  17. Nanny of the Week: Vermont city could ban ‘human activity’
  18. Nanny of the Week: Mississippi makes bird feeders illegal – by accident
  19. Nanny of the week: MO town bans breastfeeding near pools
  20. Nanny of the Week: School bans lip balm, 11 year-old girl fights back
  21. Watchdog.org blows lid off Vermont’s bake sale brownie ban
  22. Nanny of the Week: Seattle imposes fine on residents who throw away food
  23. Nanny of the Week: California bans plastic bags
  24. Nanny of the week: Maybe this time it will be different for Chicago
  25. Nanny of the Week: Florida growls at craft breweries’ growlers
  26. Nanny of the Week: Massachusetts town seeking to ban tobacco faces uprising from residents
  27. Nanny of the Week: Proposed bans on Thanksgiving Day shopping
  28. Nanny of the week: U.S. government bans ‘Comfyballs’ underwear
  29. Nanny of the Week: Better take down those holiday decorations
  30. Nanny of the week: Towns ban sledding
  31. Nanny of the Week: New York City plans to ban out-of-state cars
  32. Nanny of the Week: Snow-shoveling teens get in trouble with the law
  33. Nanny of the Week: Get caught wearing yoga pants three times, go to jail for life
  34. Nanny of the Week: Georgia lawmaker wants to ban mermaids, werewolves, other fictional creatures from real life
  35. Nanny State of the Week: Endangering manatees in Florida
  36. Nanny of the Week: Christie caves to protectionist gravestone proposal in N.J.
  37. Nanny of the Week: Don’t mix beer and ice cream – because of the children
  38. Nanny of the Week: Is the minimum wage a nanny state policy?
  39. Nanny of the Week: Republican in NY backs cat declawing ban
  40. Nanny of the Week: NJ continues ban on self-serve gasoline, because sometimes it snows
  41. Nanny of the Week: Bernie Sanders is coming for your deodorant
  42. Nanny of the Week: Will babies confuse beer for their binkies?
  43. Nanny of the Week: Weeds will prevail in Maryland lawn care ban
  44. Nanny State of the Week: FDA bans trans-fats
  45. Nanny State of the Week: L.A. plans to jail unlicensed street vendors
  46. Nanny ST8 of the Week: Anti-government messages not allowed on license plates
  47. Nanny State of the Week: Helicopters, horses and New York City
  48. Nanny State of the Week: Lawsuit challenges Seattle trash snooping
  49. Nanny State of the Week: Town officials mandate mowing
  50. Nanny State of the Week: Florida county sends environmental specialist to investigate BBQ
  51. Nanny State: Despite menu nannies, Americans still fat!
  52. Nanny State of the Week: New York City’s ban on Styrofoam hurts businesses, consumers
  53. Nanny State of the Week: Colorado Springs may ban sitting in public places
  54. Nanny State of the Week: New York’s soda ban could be back — but for kids only
  55. Nanny State of the Week: D.C. flexing licensing muscles at personal trainers
  56. Nanny State of the Week: Hammock bans mean no hanging out on college campuses
  57. Nanny State of the Week: County can use same lawn treatments it banned residents from using
  58. Nanny State of the Week: Pols want to ban daily fantasy sports
  59. Nanny State of the Week: Bay Area bureaucrats ban fireplaces, wood stoves
  60. Nanny State of the Week: Halloween for the politically correct only
  61. Nanny State of the Week: Governments lag behind the public on orca captivity ban
  62. Nanny State of the Week: New York might accidentally ban makeup
  63. Nanny State of the Week: California could be first state to apply no-fly list to guns
  64. Nanny State of the Week: University may block social media app in futile effort to combat racism
  65. Nanny State of the Week: City fines residents for chipped paint, mismatched curtains
  66. Nanny State of the Week: No Christmas in Bethlehem this year
  67. Nanny State of the Week: Connecticut may outlaw smoking in many cars
  68. Nanny State of the Week: Town inspection checks whether you cleaned your toilet
  69. Nanny State of the Week: Minnesota men facing felony charges for selling beer
  70. Nanny State of the Week: City rewrites law to block theater from getting liquor license
  71. Nanny State of the Week: FDA goes beyond the pale, prepares to ban teen tanning
  72. Nanny State of the Week: Charleston’s storied history is off-limits to the unlicensed
  73. Nanny State of the Week: Feds marketing food stamps with bingo games, TV ads
  74. Nanny State of the Week: No sipping and selling for Alabama winemakers
  75. Nanny State of the Week: Jail time for texting while walking in New Jersey
  76. Nanny State of the Week: In time for Opening Day, cities ban chewing tobacco at ballparks
  77. Nanny State of the Week: Feds send LSD Ale on a long, strange trip
  78. Nanny State of the Week: Happy Tax Day! Now get ready to pay more to file
  79. Nanny State of the Week: A state license for breast-feeding advice?
  80. Nanny State of the Week: School officials bully kids with ban on skinny jeans

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Eric is the national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and Fox News. He was once featured in a BuzzFeed list-icle. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87.