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Clarksville amends rental inspection program after court challenge

 A red sign that reads "For Rent" in white letters
Wikimedia Commons
Clarksville officials have amended the town's rental inspection program following a complaint filed in federal court earlier this year.

The Clarksville Town Council passed an amendment to its rental inspection program requiring a warrant if tenants refuse to allow the inspection, as part of negotiations in a federal lawsuit.

Clarksville’s rental inspection program, passed last year by the town council, requires property owners to register each residential unit with the town. The town or a third party will inspect them at least every three years, including looking at plumbing, electrical systems and overall building structure.

Gavin Rose, an attorney with ACLU of Indiana, filed a complaint in March on behalf of resident Gary Carpenter and other rental residents. Rose argued in the filing that requiring home searches without a warrant violates residents’ Fourth Amendment rights.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Clarksville Town Council unanimously approved an amendment addressing this issue.

Under the changes, the town will ask tenants permission to enter their homes in nonemergency situations. If they refuse, the town can’t force an inspection unless they first get a warrant from the court.

The court can consider factors including complaints or eyewitness accounts of violations and deterioration of property.

Inspections on the more than 3,000 rental units in Clarksville are expected to start next month, after being on hold due to the pending litigation.

The parties filed a joint motion in May asking the court to cancel the initial hearing and put a hold on deadlines for the town to respond. Attorneys wrote in the motion they believed the matter could be resolved without the court, likely through an amendment to the ordinance.

According to the ordinance, the program was created for the “health, safety and general welfare of all residents of the Town of Clarksville.”

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.