Landlords file federal complaint against city code inspectors
The association sued the city with a similar complaint in 2002 and the city agreed to a settlement in 2003. Now the association asserts that the city breached the settlement.
According to the plaintiff's complaint, one of the inspectors "has openly admitted his prejudice and bias toward Hispanics."
You think this is happening only in Omaha?!
We have seen some Richardson code inspectors targeting certain landlords.
Case 1: Earlier this year, one landlord was cited for having a garage sale more than three times in a year. She said that she was having her garage painted that morning and had to take stuff out of the garage. She refused to plead guilty and went to trial.
We watched the trial and saw the photo the inspector took on that Saturday morning; it didn't look like a garage sale (he claims he just drives around on Saturdays but we think he was targeting her.) There were a bunch of plastic boxes with lids on on the driveway. She didn't have a garage sale sign in her yard. The inspector testified that there was a sign on a street, but he wasn't sure if it was for the landlord's property or the house across the street from her, which WAS having a garage sale.
We were also shocked that the property in question belongs to her ex-husband but the citation was issued to her! Her name is NOWHERE on the deed.
According to her, this particular inspector often came and monitored her private residence. Also, he often showed up at her rentals before 8 am.
This landlord is an immigrant with limited English ability. We suspect that might have been a factor. (i.e. an easy target for issuing citations.)
Case 2: Also, a few years ago, another landlord was cited by a senior building inspector (who recently left the city). A few months before that, he had an encounter with this inspector, who told him, "If your tenant refuses a rental inspection, I'm going to bring the police with me and enter your property!" (Without a search warrant?)
When this landlord had a house for sale (he bought it to rehab and sell. From the price point, it was obvious that it wasn't a rental. It wouldn't cash flow), he received a rental registration form THREE DAYS after he closed on it. He didn't respond since it wasn't a rental. Then he received a citation to appear in court. By then, the house was on MLS and there was a sale sign in the yard!
So the landlord contacted the inspector to ask why he issued a citation, saying, "It's not a rental and it has never been a rental." That wasn't good enough for the inspector and he wanted to know who lived in the property. There was (and is) NO ordinance that requires the citizens of Richardson to report to the city about 1) a house that isn't a rental and 2) who lives in a non-rental property.
If the inspector had driven to the property, it would have been obvious that the house was vacant and it was for sale. Back then, the city claimed that the city was sending rental registration notices to owners every time the name on utility accounts changed. (We suspect that this building inspector was targeting this landlord.)
The inspector said he would rescind the citation, but the landlord received another notice to appear in court! So the landlord demanded proof of the citation withdrawal from the inspector -- a copy of the case dismissal the inspector filed in court said "the property is NO LONGER a rental." Yes, he lied to court! (The landlord has a copy of the dismissal.)
The landlord complained to the chief city building official and mayor. (He also contacted the city council, but none of them was interested.) Both the official and mayor apologized for the staff "error," but blamed the landlord for not responding to rental registration notices. (Again, which ordinance requires citizens to report non-rentals?)
They claimed that rental registration notices went out every time the owner on record and utility account name didn't match (Wow, what a waste of tax money!) Three days after the closing, the owner on record was still the previous owner. The inspector sent the notice to the person on the utility account instead (because it was a familiar name to the inspector? ;)
Anyway, the landlord's persistence led to Mayor Slagel changing the notification procedure.
Case 3: A landlord often receives code violation letters for overgrown tree limbs though he has NO TREE in his rental's back yard!!!