SLO’s rental housing ordinance treads on people’s rights

March 8, 2016
San Luis Obispo Councilman Dan Carpenter

San Luis Obispo Councilman Dan Carpenter


In 2015, the majority of San Luis Obispo City Council passed a new Rental Housing Inspection Ordinance. I was one of two council members who opposed it, with the majority — Jan Marx, John Ashbaugh, and Carlyn Christianson — voting in favor.

Everything about this overreach of authority is wrong. It treads on people’s 4th Amendment rights by mandating interior inspections without cause.

This action is nothing less than discriminatory based on one’s housing status. It’s extremely onerous as tenants will ultimately absorb the cost of registration and inspection fees into future leases.

Effectively, rentals in our community will become even less affordable, negatively affecting our most vulnerable residents. Is it just a matter of time before San Luis Obispo County adopts a similar ordinance?

Will Supervisor Adam Hill support this type of regulation as his celebrated endorsers do (Marx, Ashbaugh, and Christianson)? Adam proudly highlights their endorsements and testimonials on his campaign website.

To protect your rights and prevent overzealous regulations, I encourage you to vote for me, Dan Carpenter for supervisor on June 7.

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The ordinance skirts the 4th amendment issues. The city wants the landlord to present a consent form on behalf of the government. Even a tenant that does not want the inspection may be intimidated into consenting, thinking that the request is coming from the landlord. The request is coming from the city, whose representative cannot enter without the tenant’s consent or a warrant. It seems underhanded on the city’s part, but the courts have ruled it legal. As long as the ordinance states that without consent of the tenant, a warrant is needed. The SLO ordinance has the warrant clause.

Though legal, it does not make it a good idea. Rather than adding costs, the city should adopt creative ways to allow low cost housing alternatives.

Dan: As one commentator already mentioned, perhaps you identify too strongly with the landlord mentality ? How many rental properties do you own, either outright or as part of any sort of family trust? You seem to infer that you all for transparency and accountability, so how about disclosing what your financial interests are as a landlord in the city of San Luis Obispo. Is it possible that some of your properties might need to be upgraded in order to qualify as rentable under the new guidelines?

For everyone who thinks a renter can simply “find another place” if the one they are living in isn’t safe, up to code or even just somewhat “nice”, how many who feel that way are themselves renters and understand the difficulty in coming up with first/last/deposit, and have the extra time to go around looking at what little is available?

Many complain about how onerous these new inspections are going to be, like San Luis Obispo city government has started a new movement that is really about collecting new fees, but few actually have an understanding of how crappy our rental pool here in SLO is. I am very fortunate to own my own home and have lucky enough never having had to rent a place to live, but I do have a coworker who has looked high and low here in town and was absolutely disgusted with what was being offered.

If you want to read an example of a city that has an aggressive rental inspection and permitting process, follow this link to the rental inspection checklist for Warren, Michigan. If you own a property that you want to rent out, you have to have a license by the city to do so, you have to have the property inspected every two years, and the checklist that I linked to has very specific requirements. The one for San Luis Obispo is actually pretty mild by comparison.

I am bothered though by the comments about how various permits were thrown out when the county moved into their new building; in an age when so much information can be stored digitally in a very compact and inexpensive manner, there was no excuse to simply throw all of those old permits out. Looks like a department head somewhere decided it wasn’t worth the time or trouble. A real shame.

Bob….you should know that every elected official has to submit financial disclosure information every year which is available to the public. It identifies real property and other assets owned by your representative. I’ve been transparent with that information all six years in office.

This ordinance doesn’t effect me personally as I don’t own any residential rentals. Other than my own home, my only other real property is a commercial rental which is not covered by this ordinance. And by the way, we are exemplary landlords with a family member living on the property to provide a 24/7 presence. So your inference to me being a landlord with properties needing upgrading is offensive and couldn’t be further from the truth.

So Bob, you can see my only motivation is to give voice to those (landlords & tenants) who are negatively effected by this government overreach. I take my responsibility to represent my constituents very seriously. I’m not the self serving bureaucrat that you’re accustomed to.

Dan: Thank you for the prompt and courteous reply. Yes, I do realize that elected officials have to have assets listed, I was just being lazy due to not really having the time to do the research myself.

I was aware that you had commercial rental(s?), and as a person who used to operate a small business in downtown SLO, I usually lump all commercial landlords in a category of looking out for themselves first and foremost, with little regard for the tenants that can struggle to continue to operate in the very steep rental arena that is the norm for businesses in San Luis Obispo.

I do apologize for inferring that perhaps you had rental properties that might have to be improved in order to stay within the new guidelines SLO is implementing for houses, studios, duplexes and other smaller housing rentals in our town.

I do believe your statement about giving voice to the landlords in town, but I have doubts about speaking for renters, who face numerous challenges in finding anything approaching affordable, but still not needing numerous improvements and safety issues addressed and brought up to code.

I am curious if you looked at the link I provided to the inspection form for Warren, MI; as I asserted, our new “super invasive” rules pale in comparison to what that city requires of anyone offering a living space for rent. Perhaps Warren provides a service to its’ residents by making sure their living spaces are safe, clean and up to date with a stringent inspection regime. I have a suspicion that many of the landlords of rental homes, duplexes and studios have gotten away with a fleecing of renters for far too long.

Correction: 4th paragraph, that should have read ” … , but still not needing numerous … “

sheesh, ” …, but still needing numerous ….”

I am a renter and I really don’t appreciate the program. First, it will drive up the high cost of rents. I live in a 110 year old house in the downtown area. The house is in pretty good shape. It’s not drafty, no leaks there is no significant mold, and overall it’s a rock solid structure (practically sound proof) with beautiful wood floors and a good paint job. To go through this house with a fine tooth comb and demand that the landlord fix them would undoubtedly drive up the rent. I’m pretty sure that you could go through any house and find something out of code if you want to. There is always some degree of subjectivity involved and this leads to the potential for corruption and politics between the inspectors and specific landlords.

Second, I really don’t want anyone to go through my home. I’m not doing anything illegal, but it does not matter. I have a right to be secure in my home safe from prying eyes. I don’t want to wind up being super busy around the day of the inspection and forgetting about leaving some financial or healthcare documents lying about. I should not have to worry about this.

Third, one can look at codes involving buildings and renting as a way of protecting renters from bad landlords. But one can also look at them as ways to push lower income people out of an area. If you are homeless in this city, even if you found someone to rent you a shed in their backyard, you could not live there. The city would RATHER you be out in the street, with NO shelter whatsoever, than allow you to come to an affordable arrangement with someone who can help. This is a great example of unintended consequences that can result from well meaning policy. Or, perhaps it is intended.

There are ways to help tenants. But those tenants have to take it upon themselves to contact the city. And that is how it should be. We can spend our money helping people who WANT the help. We do not need to force our visions of justice on people who do not want it.

When I received my notice, it read like they checked their records (according to our records…) that I was a renter and was subjected to this travesty of over-reach. I simply threw it away and chalked it up to colossal ignorance by the usual suspects. I would LOVE for them to come and try to inspect my home. Will they be in for a rude, legal awakening.

Sadly, I’ve not rented out my home ever, and it’s going on 20 years that I’ve been in the same place. Makes me question their ability to keep records.

Dan Carpenter: “It treads on people’s 4th Amendment rights by mandating interior inspections without cause” Thank you for defending the 4th Amendment. Most elected politicos never mention the Constitution and its Amendments. Thank you Dan!

Check out Dan’s website: Vote for Dan Carpenter for Supervisor on June 7!

You can discuss this with Adam Hill over a free breakfast at Sheila Blake’s house on Longview in Pismo Beach, March 20, 11 am -2 pm. Space is limited so RSVP online at: They will send you the address a few days before the event, or just Google it.

Free food on Team Adam Hill? Nice.

Ha! This is actually pretty funny. Councilwoman Blake is holding a brunch for Adam Hill and the public at her house. I suppose everyone from Team Adam Hill will be there… Can you imagine? All the usual suspects, an ALL STAR EVENT! Team Adam Hill- Trolls- Aaron Ochs and all of his aliases, with special guest trolls Bill Leys, Russel Hodin, Lynette Thornatzky, and Lauren Ferrara! Legal Team- Marty Moroski, Steve Adamski, and James Wagstaffe!- Financial Dept. Gary Grossman, Ryan Petetit, John Belsher, Tom Jones, and who is Adam’s contact from Phillips 66? Let’s not forget, the First Lady of Team Adam Hill, Dee Torres (telling us how sweet Ryan Petetit is when you don’t piss him off.)

I wonder what the response would be to Dan Carpenter’s RSVP? Or Karen Velie?

Or how about this:

Hi Adam, this is Dave Congalton. I would like to RSVP for the upcoming breakfast at Sheila’s place.

Adam Hill- What the?!? Why I ought ta! You blankity blank @#%$&***!!!!

You are worth your own motion picture Adam. “The Bad Supervisor” Are you willing to sell the rights?