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Platteville Area Apartment Assn., et al., v. City of Platteville

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
179 F.3d 574 (1999)


In 1997, the City of Platteville (City) (defendant) enacted two ordinances to address the deterioration of rental housing. The ordinances amended chapter 23 of the City’s housing code by adopting a health and safety code and a procedure for periodic inspection of rental property. Depending on the severity of housing violations found, the City conducted inspections every one or three years. If a landlord or tenant refused inspection, the building inspector could apply for an administrative warrant. The stated purpose of these warrants was to search for violations of the health and safety provisions of chapter 23 of the housing code. In practice, the City’s building inspector also searched for violations of the multiple occupancy provision found in Chapter 22 of the housing code. Chapter 22 prohibited more than four unrelated persons from living in the same single-family dwelling. The housing inspector searched closets and bureaus for the sole purpose of seeking evidence of multiple occupancy violations. The Platteville Area Apartment Association (Association) (plaintiffs) sued the City to enjoin enforcement of the ordinance permitting periodic inspections. The Association argued the inspections violated the Fourth Amendment because they were not supported by probable cause to believe a violation was occurring. The district court granted partial relief to the plaintiffs, finding the warrant did not authorize the intrusive searches conducted by the building inspector. Both parties appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Posner, C.J.)

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