New Hampshire Home Inspections - Media Advisory
Media Conference Announces Federal Lawsuit by New Hampshire Homeowners Challenging State’s Inspection Law
10:30 a.m./Wednesday, August 25, 2004
U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire
John Kramer, Vice President for Communications
Institute for Justice, (703) 682-9320 ext. 205
Residents of the Granite State are finding themselves caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to exercising their constitutional rights to exclude unwelcome government employees. In New Hampshire, government-hired inspectors may enter and search the homes of every person in the state. Worse yet, the law penalizes anyone who refuses to consent to an inspector’s search. For these reasons, the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice will join with four New Hampshire residents on Wednesday, August 25, 2004, to file a federal district court challenge to New Hampshire’s property-assessment inspection law. The goal of the lawsuit is to restore the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment to all New Hampshire homeowners.
According to the “Inspection of Property” statute, local government officials and their employees can obtain warrants that allow them to search the homes of everyone in their city and town for the purpose of property-tax assessment. Because officials don’t have to show that a law is being broken to get the warrant, it’s easy for government-hired inspectors to conduct blanket searches of entire neighborhoods. If officials would rather not take the time to get a warrant, they don’t have to. That’s because the statute provides a tool with which to force a person to “consent” to the search: Any person who refuses to allow a warrantless and unconstitutional search of his home automatically loses his right to appeal his property-tax assessment. Even the mere act of asking an inspector for a warrant can get a homeowner in trouble.
“Every person’s home is their castle, unless they live in New Hampshire,” said Bert Gall, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which filed the lawsuit (Smith v. Ayotte) today in Concord, N.H., in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire. “Under New Hampshire law, it is easier for the government to search the homes of law-abiding citizens than it is to search the homes of suspected criminals. That is wrong and that is what the Institute for Justice’s lawsuit seeks to correct.”