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.


This inspection programs should be for owner occupied as well as the rentals,lets make it fair across the board.I see plenty of owner occupied homes that have violations,paint,broken vent screens,garbage cans in view just to name a few things that are listed on the “rental housing inspection” list.Just because I cannot afford a home but I have a rental why should I feel like a second class citizen by the City by an unwarranted inspection.

Make it fair for all housing not just rentals.


You think just like the government. Now imagine all the fees to be collected from homeowners all in the name of forcing them to become compliant, WOW a raise for every city employee!


No I do not think like the government I think what is FAIR for everyone in the city what is being foisted on a renter should also include owner occupied homes too.The city government does not have the “stones” to include owner occupied because the owners would scream bloody murder and the city government would have to listen and they would throw the ordinance out and figure out another to to screw people out of their money.Oh wait they figured out go after the renters……………


Divide and conquer is the name of the game. They better bring a warrant when they come to my place.


The government is here to oversea, not invade – so a search without probable cause to believe that crime evidence is present is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.

They’re not a group I normally speak fondly of, however the ACLU has stated often that search and seizure is one of our most precious and valuable rights and yet is also one of the most recently trampled and threatened.

Appears San Luis Obispo doesn’t care about people’s rights and are more than willing to shred the Constitution for their own iron-fisted benefit.


When you choose to engage in a commercial activity, you are subject to reasonable government regulation. We are the government. It is not some distinct and separate entity.

Sorry Dan, but you are WRONG.

If you don’t like the government in your house, then don’t rent it out.


Sorry Johnny, you’ve lived too long under the iron-fisted People’s Republic of San Luis Obispo – and you’re WRONG.

Kevin Rice

So poor people don’t have a right to not have their home invaded by government. How right-wing authoritarian of you!


That’s more accurately described as left wing authoritarian. It seems a very large number of people have been dupped into thinking past authoritarian/totalitarian regimes such as the USSR, the PRC, the NAZIs, etc. were somehow “right wing”, as in liberal conservatives, nothing could be further from the truth.

All of the contemporary repressive governments of the past 200 years were socialist/communist, not liberal free market democracies favoring individual freedom. The were, categorically, ALL left wing totalitarian regimes. All of them.


“reasonable government regulation.”

There already are several city, county and state agencies that are charged with overseeing housing, building and code enforcement. Even for mobil homes and parks.

This fee/tax is just another fleecing under the guise of new government regulation…


I read that the new ordinance does not include rental apartments.

Why not just inspect rentals that are dumps and have too many vehicles and couches on the front lawn?

Why everyone???

Doesn’t the city have more important work to do like finding a true water source????

Kathie Walker

Properties in R-3 and R-4 zones are covered by inspections performed by the fire department so are not included in the Rental Inspection ordinance. The inspections by the fire department are much less intrusive than those that will be conducted by Code Enforcement. Some rental property owners argued that rentals in R-1 and R-2 should undergo the same inspections as R-3 and R-4 but the City adopted the ordinance, including higher fees and more invasive inspections.

If you look at the inspection checklist for rental inspection ordinance it covers everything including the yards, exterior of the house, foundation, floors, walls, ceiling, windows, doors, etc. It is VERY thorough. Some City Council members will tell you there are “only twenty items” on the checklist which is not exactly true. ( ) They have grouped multiple items under each of 20 headings so it actually amounts to about 80 items. And while they are in your home they can cite whatever else they see even if it’s not on the list.


Been reading your site. A truly amazing story of injustice. I wish you the best. If you don’t know Dan Carpenter personally, you should contact him and ask him to read your site because he is your best hope at that council meeting.

Ted Slanders

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

Isn’t this notion the same as a SLO building inspector making sure a new home, or a remodel, is completed correctly and safely before he signs off? Isn’t this a plus for the lessee and lessor in the long run? I am sure the home insurance companies would agree.


I agree that it is BS for SLO to let themselves into peoples homes without “cause”. However, having graduated from Poly a few years back, I have been inside enough rentals occupied by college students to know that many of the land/slumlords dont give a shit about the condition of their rentals, they only care about the fat check every month. The kids/parents are getting ripped off by the school and the property owner, and I believe there needs to be some form of accountability of the owner of a rental to ensure tenants are getting what they are paying for. Yea, some students party, dont clean up after themselves etc., but that doesnt excuse things like broken appliances, filthy conditions upon moving in, crappy decks and so on. Perhaps SLO city should man up and use the money they already have to inspect rentals instead of creating more fees and job security for a few.


I second that.


I would hope that the rent for dumps like that is significantly lower, otherwise use the power of your checkbook to just say no. Some people will accept the crappy rental in exchange for lower rent. If the landlord is violating some health standards then call the authorities. We do not need another government agency to charge us more money to tell us what to do. I guarantee the future will have this very agency coming into citizens personal residences to check for whatever they feel like and charge the citizens huge fees for non-compliance. There has to be a point when the people say enough government inclusion!

Jorge Estrada

Yes rents are high but so is the price of real-estate. Ask a rental management company what is fare rent and then ask them why? I would assume that the general market will be their basis not the exceptions.


The rents are about to go higher!!!


I went with a friend in search of rentals.OMG. Whobbly toilets not even bolted to the floor, cracked and broken window blinds, yards full of weeds, tile on kitchen counters with no grout between tiles, grossly stained carpet, broken windows… The rent was $1900. It was appalling. Maybe not every landlord needs to be inspected, but there sure needs to be some kind of way for renters to report landlords without fear of retaliation. Housing – particularly rentals – are in short supply here and I do believe many landlords take advantage of that. Not all renters are students by the way, and most people I think would like to come home to a place that is not depressing and falling apart from lack of care.


All this program will do is drive up the cost of places even more. The rent for a dump like that is $1900 precisely because of the codes and the rabid enforcement of them.

mary margaret

How much is the fee going to be?

Kathie Walker

There is an annual fee of $65 for each rental plus $185 for each inspection. Most repairs require a permit and permits start at $220 each. Landlords are required to obtain permits retroactively for any upgrades for the property if there is not permit on file, regardless if they made the improvement or not.


It’s always surprising to see politicos spout economic untruths like “tenants will ultimately absorb the cost of registration and inspection fees.” No, Dan, they will not. Rents follow what the market allows. Landlords can’t simply “pass through” fees (which in this case are small and paid only once every 3 years) unless their rents are “below market”. If they raise rents above “market,” people will rent elsewhere. That’s the beauty of the market. One would think Dan would understand that.

Of course, in SLO rents are so high already (would you believe $5000 for an ordinary house?) because of the huge number of students Cal Poly and Cuesta refuse to house on campus, no landlord is going to be hurting from these piddly inspection fees, which amount to less than $10 per month. But their profits will drop a tiny bit.

What’s Carpenter’s real concern? Perhaps because he’s part of the landlord class, he identifies with their concerns more than with the city’s legitimate desire to force some really rotten slumlords to clean up their act.


The vacancy rate in SLO is actually too low for a healthy market. If there was a huge profit being made by landlords, then more people would get into the “business”. The high-cost/low-inventory in the market is party caused by government policy. Any additional cost imposed by the government will ultimately be paid by the consumer (renter).

$10/month is just the money needed to pay the city inspector. The landlord or property managers do not work for free either. Many of them will want their time reimbursed as well. Tenants will ultimately pay another $10-$50/month in higher rents.

Kathie Walker

There are approximately 5,000 properties subject to the rental inspection ordinance. Without a doubt, property owners will incur huge expenses to comply with the City’s standards under the new ordinance. Some rentals will be lost. It has already happened to a property at 1353 Higuera – which was the first property owner to appeal a Notice of Violation to the Construction Board of Appeals. The CBOA sided with the City, even though the secondary dwelling unit was in nice condition, because no permits could be found. The tenant was evicted and the building demolished which required an additional permit and inspections.

The burden of proof related to any construction on the property – from the time it was originally constructed – lies with the current property owner. If there is not a permit on file with the City or County Assessor it is presumed that it doesn’t exist. As an aside, the City acknowledges that many permits have been lost or destroyed so their records aren’t entirely accurate. The County Assessor destroyed all permits and other documentation prior to moving into their new building. They contacted Community Development beforehand and the CDD told the Assessor that it was not necessary to retain the permit records for City properties. Still, the City requires the owner to furnish a valid permit or the construction is considered “illegal” and must be brought up to current Code. This includes more fees and costs.

We’ve owned our property for 5 years. We live in the main home and rented out a second home on the property which enabled us to qualify for our mortgage. After our property was inspected by SLO code enforcement we received a Notice of Violation for dozens of “violations” dating back to the original construction of the house in 1928. The City is requiring us to pay for permits retroactively for every item that is not in our property’s permit record and bring it up to today’s Code. Even though items conform to older building Codes and are not “unsafe” the City requires that it meet current Code because no permit can be located. Some of their requirements include re-grading our lot and demolishing much of our home. Ultimately, we are going to lose our home if we are not successful in our appeal of the Notice of Violation which will be heard on 4/5/2016. Obviously, we want safe housing in SLO but the City’s new code enforcement policies have gone awry.


Dan I agree with you that this is wrong. I am actually shocked someone has not stepped forward with a lawsuit for this action.

I think it is another way to get money to pay for the over paid staff.

As I understand it, it will be a code enforcement officer doing the inspections. They have no education in interior problems so that in its self is disturbing. And then to know it is also about the outside of the house, if a shingle is missing, this is really over stepping the authority given to them.

I am so glad I did not purchase my house in Slo, the city staff is slowly killing the town they claim to love.

Dan Carpenter for supervisor