Metropolitan Omaha Property Owners Ass'n v. City of Omaha, Nebraska, No. 20-1006 (8th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed suit against the City, alleging that the Rental Property Registration and Inspection Ordinance violated their constitutional rights, breached their consent decree with the City, and violated the Fair Housing Act. The Ordinance implemented uniform residential rental property registration, and a regular inspection program that is phased in accordance with the history of code violations on each property, requiring all rental properties in the City to register with the Permits and Inspections Division before leasing to tenants. The district court denied a preliminary injunction and dismissed plaintiffs' claims.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Ordinance does not violate Metro Omaha's constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Applying the Nebraska Supreme Court's rules of construction, the court concluded that the plain text of the Ordinance does not authorize warrantless inspections of properties if consent is withheld. Furthermore, pre-compliance review before inspections does not apply here where inspections are permitted only if there is consent, a warrant, or court order. Finally, by withholding consent, property owners are not subject to criminal liability or prohibited from renting their property.
The court also concluded that the Ordinance is not unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The court explained that the Ordinance provides adequate notice of the proscribed conduct and does not lend itself to arbitrary enforcement. The court further concluded that Metro Omaha fails to plausibly plead a breach of the consent decree, and that the Ordinance does not violate the Fair Housing Act.