Suprise Visit From the Town's Building Inspectors!

Jesus, my wife just called to say we got a surprise visit from the city code enforcement people. Yeow!

I wasn’t home, but my wife was. They knocked on the door, said who they were, and asked if they could look in the backyard. They said there was no code for treeforts (which I just built) and that everything was cool. My wife said they were very complimentary of my work, but I still feel somewhat unsettled about the visit. What a lousy feeling this is. They said they hire retirees to drive around the area looking for violations. I guess I was either reported by one of these roving patrols or someone in my neighborhood narked on me? Sheesh. This is enough to make a guy vote Libertarian! :)

Am I just being a neophyte home owner here? How do I benefit from having people prowl my neighborhood reporting me for building my kids a treefort?

We have volunteer busybodies that patrol our streets after snowfalls in the winter, making sure that each and every one of us has shoveled our walk. If we don’t comply, they report us to the city.

Someone went up and down the neighborhood, reporting everyone, even though we have a day’s grace period after a large snowfall. We all got ticketed (120.00, plus another 300.00 if the city has to come out and take care of it), and we all went as a group to the City Streets office downtown. The secretary looked a bit flustered with all these irate people appearing at once, and explained that the city has an official warning policy, that unless the lack of shoveling is egregious, they never act on the fines.

It still ticks me off that someone is taking the time out of their day to report people.

Good luck with your tree fort.

My dad works as a security guy in the retirement place that he and my mom live in, and he is frequently disgusted by the tattle tale people that are there, but in their case, they’re all retired and have nothing better to do.

They pay old people to look for violations? That’s so, so awful.

Some guy in my neighborhood got ticked off that he couldn’t build a radio tower in his back yard, (wtf?) so he went around the neighborhood and reported all the violations that people had. Even retarded ones like my neighbors brand new shed, (which was 1 foot too high) and my mothers trailer being in the front driveway for the night. We arn’t allowed to have overly large vehicles in the front of our homes. Campers, large trailers, and the like. Me neighbor had to demolish his brand new shed :/.

My father tried for 6 months to get a permit to prune an overgrown native tree in his lush garden back in NZ.

After ages of waiting, and tree starting to block the neighbours view, etc, he went ahead with hand prunes and pruned it back a bit (apparently it is ok to hand prune a tree, as you’re not going to kill anything substantial with it!)…

With a week his gardener-arborist guy had reported him to the council and then an officious south african (many seem to be) turned up from the council threatening huge fines and 2 years in jail. Really, REALLY wound my father up.

Not sure if he paid a fine or just lawyered them back.

This is the stuff revoluitions are made of.

Whatever you do, don’t build a deck.

You know that you don’t have to let anyone onto your property that doesn’t have a warrant, right? The Fourth Amendment is there for a reason.

Old people really seem to have nothing better to do than complain.

Pretty sure the city has the right to enter property to ensure code compliance, particularly with an external structure that’s visible from outside the property line. Also pretty sure you don’t want to elevate this kind of crap to “warrant” status. Don’t be the nail that sticks out.

Searches and Inspections in Noncriminal Cases – Certain early cases held that the Fourth Amendment was applicable only when a search was undertaken for criminal investigatory purposes, 66 and the Supreme Court until recently employed a reasonableness test for such searches without requiring either a warrant or probable cause in the absence of a warrant. 67 But in 1967, the Court held in two cases that administrative inspections to detect building code violations must be undertaken pursuant to warrant if the occupant objects. 68 ‘‘We may agree that a routine inspection of the physical condition of private property is a less hostile intrusion than the typical policeman’s search for the fruits and instrumentalities of crime. . . . But we cannot agree that the Fourth Amendment interests at stake in these inspection cases are merely ‘peripheral.’ It is surely anomalous to say that the individual and his private property are fully protected by the Fourth Amendment only when the individual is suspected of criminal behavior.’’

Also pretty sure you don’t want to elevate this kind of crap to “warrant” status. Don’t be the nail that sticks out.

If there was no municipal code in place for tree forts, what was the basis for the inspection? With a don’t be the nail that sticks out attitude, the American Revolution would never have happened, and no law would ever be challenged.

Who knew George Washington just wanted to build a deck?

Ok, counselor, how about you brief the issue of an external structure or out-building as distinguished from code inspection of a residence or locked storage facility? Camara and See concern code compliance inspections of residences or locked commercial warehouses. Camera in particular addressed “intrusion into personal privacy.”

Do you think the city needs a warrant to notice your fence is collapsing? Or that you’ve built a saggy treehouse (this is a hypothetical, Tim, no offense)?

This is what would happen if you demanded a warrant: They’d get one, and at the same time mark you as a kook who should not ever get the benefit of the doubt. Benefit to the constitution: zero. Benefit to you: negative several hundred.

I know! The British really misunderstood colonial American goals.

No no no, they pay him to sit at the front gate and let visitors in, plus drive around in a golf cart and make sure people aren’t illegally parked, etc. :P It’s something for him to do instead of annoying my mom.

What does happen though is a lot of bored old farts call in to the office to complain about every little violation and stuff. One time I was visiting and parked next to the communal mailbox (not in front of it, just next to it) and 2 hours later there was a nastygram put on it. ><

Jesus is that ever not true. Holy moly.

Walk into any law library and you’ll find rows of books – long books, written by lawyers who have made intense study of the issue – about the Fourth Amendment and its limits and exceptions. When a layperson tells you he can sum up the whole thing in eighteen words, be very skeptical.

They probably got a report that you were building some structure in the back. Might be a pool house, might be a granny flat, might be a tree house, might be Salvage 1. They looked into it, found out it was a tree house, and dropped the matter.

If the potential violation is visible from public property, or the officer has permission to enter adjacent private property and can see it from there, that’s enough to support an inspection warrant. The judge will want to know if the officer was refused access though, so I teach them to go ask permission to inspect it first. I don’t care if people say no, I know it is their right, and I teach officers not to let that prejudice them against the property owner.

Code Enforcement is almost entirely reactive, initiated based on complaints or something an officer happens to notice, so almost every case starts with your neighbors finking on you.

Some neighbor narced on me last week apparently. I got a notice from the city with a complaint about weeds taller than 8" in my backyard, and that I had 5 days to deal with it or face a $250 fine. I guess that will teach me not to use the weedwacker after I mow. My neighbors are such cocks anyway. We have these retarded city ordinances in most major cities in Michigan that say no parking on the street between 2 and 6 am…ever. One old guy on our street calls on every single person who does, and always walks over to their house and cusses people out for parking on the street. Normally I’m not the type to wish ill on others, but I really wish people that have nothing better to do than bitch about people parking in front of their own fucking house would just hurry up and die.

You do know there’s a reason about the 2-6am thing, right? It’s so the street cleaners can clean the street. There’s a street near here that has people parked on it all the time, and it looks like complete shit because it never gets cleaned properly. Not that I’d narc on anyone for it, but just saying that some laws are there for a good reason.