On reading the Washington Supreme Court opinion in Pasco v. Shaw - released today - our first question was why someone in the property rights world hadn't tried something like this before. Or maybe that was because the issues involved had been thought through better, before . . .
Because the basic ideas seems right up the alley of those property rights groups: A constitutional challenge to all those state and local rules and regulations involving inspection of building quality and related matters. Since this involves government entities coming onto private property without a reasonable belief that something criminal was going on.
The problems being alleged were certainly significant enough.
For example, the landlords involved in this case owned rental units for which there was no working source of heat. Tenants were told they had to provide their own heat via portable electric space heaters. In addition, kitchens contained no vent, hood, fan, or window, despite the fact that natural gas was used to heat them. In one building, windows were not properly installed, allowing weather to enter the wall. Plumbing was in such disrepair that a bucket had to be used to catch water draining from a bathroom sink. One unit was infested with cockroaches. Some units had unsound wall finishes and warped or buckled walls.
One of the Shaws' tenants complained that they were refusing to make necessary repairs to her apartment. For some time, neither the heat nor the air conditioning worked. The doors did not open unless she resorted to using a knife or plastic card. Both the bathroom and kitchen sinks drained into buckets. The shower wall was collapsing and the kitchen and bathroom floors were rotting. When the tenant demanded either repairs, placement into a better rental unit, or refund of her deposit so she could move out, the apartment manager told her that if she continued to complain, he would have her deported.