Advocate‎ > ‎

Tenant Civil Rights

How much of your civil rights do you give up when you live in rental housing?

Should tenants give up their Constitutional rights when they move into rental housing?

Your first amendment rights protect you from the government. What protections do you have when your landlord wants to stop your freedom of speech, association, and religion. It is a murky area of the law. As long as landlord restrictions on civil liberties are CONSISTENT (not discrimatory) they are not a violation of your civil rights. Still, winning the same rights as a homeowner should be a goal. Here's some examples of landlord's restricting civil rights, sometimes with the support of state law and local law enforcement.

Banning guests-is it legal? How does banning work where you live?-fill out the survey!Nuisance Codes and Tenants' Rights: can police punish landlords for excessive calls from the property? can landlords punish tenants for calling the cops? do local nuisance call ordinances result in owners paying off duty cops to do what they should be doing 9-5? can off duty cops abuse tenant's civil rights in ways they couldn't do if they were on duty? UPDATE: ACLU settles nuisance call case in Norristown Pa This week the American Civil Liberties Union has won a settlement on behalf of a victim of domestic violence who lost her home because she called Norristown Pa police for protection from her abuser. ACLU reports:

"In a settlement reached with Norristown on September 8, 2014, the town agreed to pay $495,000 in compensation and attorneys’ fees to Ms. Briggs. It also repealed its ordinance and promised not to pass another law that would punish residents and landlords as a result of requests for emergency assistance."This is one issue where landlords and tenants can agree, Landlords don't want to be bullied and tenants don't want to fear eviction for calling for help. Enforcement of a similar law in Cincinnati is "on hold", according to RHINO sources, because of landlord and advocate opposition.

You can read more about Nuisance Call ordinances here
You can read the ACLU story here

You can read a (somewhat misleading) news story here:
New legislation would make private police records open to the public. Read a copy of the bill here
What's News?

A chilling story that underscores how the civil rights of tenants are undermined. 

December 27, 2016 PRI Marketplace,New Study shows most police moonlight as security.
No regulations to protect civil rights when police are off duty. " '
The lines would be gray between ‘Are you acting in your responsibility, in your role as a full-time law enforcement officer or as a security officer of a, you know, private interest?' ”  

AP: Across US, police officers abuse confidential databases
      "Criminal-history and driver databases give officers critical information about people they encounter on the job. But the AP's review shows how those systems also can be exploited by officers who, motivated by romantic quarrels, personal conflicts or voyeuristic curiosity, sidestep policies and sometimes the law by snooping. In the most egregious cases, officers have used information to stalk or harass, or have tampered with or sold records they obtained. No single agency tracks how often the abuse happens nationwide, and record-keeping inconsistencies make it impossible to know how many violations occur. But the AP, through records requests to state agencies and big-city police departments, found law enforcement officers and employees who misused databases were fired, suspended or resigned more than 325 times between 2013 and 2015. They received reprimands, counseling or lesser discipline in more than 250 instances, the review found.'
     In an example from the article, "A North Olmsted, Ohio, officer pleaded guilty this year to searching for a female friend's landlord and showing up in the middle of the night to demand the return of money he said was owed her. The officer, Brian Bielozer, told the AP he legitimately sought the landlord's information as a safety precaution to determine if she had outstanding warrants or a weapons permit. But he promised as part of a plea agreement never to seek a job again in law enforcement. He said he entered the plea to avoid mounting legal fees." 
      This practice can be a problem where off-duty police are providing "security" to property owners, including PHAs. but really using their access to police files to “rescreen” tenants and prosecute visitors. Two examples: tenant in Cleveland was threatened with eviction because she had a misdemeanor, not related to the property, that turned up after she moved in. “Security guard” was told to scan tenants names through the police database to see if new issues had arisen. In another case in Southern Ohio, off duty city police were using their time as security guards to run the license plates of tenant guests to find people with outstanding warrants.
     Tenant leaders and advocates might want to look into the policies and procedures (sometimes called “post orders”) of the security companies that “protect” the property. Tenants and their guests might be the targets.

Tenant's flag incites fight...or 

     A tenant in Whitehall (suburb of Columbus) got a Notice of Lease Violation that said "Please remove flag from your front porch." Not just any flag, mind you, but the Stars & Stripes which has flown on Julia Lease's porch for 36 years.
     Wait, that's not the whole story. Dimitri Hatzifotinos who specializes in landlord representation for the Willis Law Firm says the issue is that tenants can't attach ANYTHING to the landlord's property. For example there are other flags (not the Stars & Stripes) that could be offensive to the community. The only way to be "fair" is to make a blanket rule.
      Update: Enter, State Rep. Ann Gonzales who is proposing protections for tenants who fly THE AMERICAN FLAG Drive around any community and look at the flags out front of homes. Pansies, Ethnic banners (Irish, Italian, Afro American), Sports Teams...why should landlords decide which flags you can fly on your rental home? Here's the story
Common sense, little old ladies and stars & stripes triumph.

Notes & Links


Private Policing


Subpages (1): Criminalization