In this case out of Luzerne County, the Commonwealth Court was presented with a claim that a municipality had violated a landlord’s constitutional rights by performing an inspection of his property without an administrative warrant, and without his consent. In finding no violation had occurred, the Court concluded that the tenant’s consent to perform the inspection satisfied the constitutional requirements and no violation had occurred.
Cannarozzo owned a 5 unit apartment building in West Hazelton Borough. The Borough’s Code Enforcement Officer was alerted to violations of the Property Maintenance Code at his property by way of a phone call from the mother of one of the tenants. The tenant then allowed the Code Enforcement Officer to enter the Property to perform an inspection. Based upon the inspection, the Code Enforcement Officer issued 11 notices of violation to Cannarozzo. The issuing authority found Cannarozzo guilty of all 11 violations and Cannarozzo appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County. The trial court gave Cannarozzo time to make certain repairs, and scheduled a follow up inspection for February 2016. Cannarozzo never appeared for the re-inspection. At a second hearing, Cannarozzo claimed he was unaware of the re-inspection and requested another appointment. The trial court denied the request and concluded Cannarozzo was guilty of 10 of the violations and imposed a $200 fine per violation. Cannarozzo appealed, asserting the Code Enforcement Officer’s initial entry into the Property had been illegal because he did not have an administrative warrant.
On appeal, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court’s decision. It found that in rental situations, the protections of the 4th Amendment primarily protect the tenant rather than the landlord. As the phone call from the tenant’s mother constituted reasonable cause, and the tenant had granted consent for the inspection, the entry and inspection were constitutional.
Click here to read: Com. v. Cannarozzo, 742 CD 2016 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Mar. 1, 2017).
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