MN: Apt mgr’s ability to enter for maintenance purposes is not apparent authority to consent to a police search

An apartment manager’s ability to enter by law and by the lease for maintenance purposes does not give the manager or staff the ability to consent to a police entry. Here, a water leak brought maintenance who saw drug use and then they called the police who came right in relying on the landlord. Exigent circumstances and inevitable discovery also rejected. State v. Dotson, 2017 Minn. App. LEXIS 90 (July 17, 2017):

The state argues that Minn. Stat. § 504B.211, subd. 4(1) and (3), allows a landlord to enter a premises without notice and provide consent for police to enter if there is an immediate need to do so. This is an issue of statutory interpretation, which this court reviews de novo. Rushton v. State, 889 N.W.2d 561, 563 (Minn. 2017). The goal of statutory interpretation is to determine the intent of the legislature. Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2016). We construe words and phrases in a statute according to their plain and ordinary meaning. Id.; Rushton, 889 N.W.2d at 563-64.

Generally, a landlord may enter a rented unit for “a reasonable business purpose” after making “a good faith effort to give the residential tenant reasonable notice.” Minn. Stat. § 504B.211, subd. 2 (2016). “A residential tenant may not waive and the landlord may not require the residential tenant to waive the residential tenant’s right to prior notice of entry . . . as a condition of entering into or maintaining the lease.” Id. (emphasis added). A landlord may dispose of the notice requirement only if immediate entry is necessary to: (1) “prevent injury to persons or property because of” maintenance, security, or police issues; (2) “determine a residential tenant’s safety”; or (3) “comply with local ordinances regarding unlawful activity” within the premises. Id., subd. 4(1)-(3) (2016).

The district court, after reconsidering Dotson’s motion to suppress evidence, concluded that J.C.’s initial entry was allowed under section 504B.211, subd. 4(1), and her second entry was allowed under subdivision 4(3). The district court also concluded that subdivision 4(3) gave J.C. “actual authority to consent to law enforcement’s entry onto the premises and freezing of the scene.”

Section 504B.211 must be considered in light of the supreme court’s holding in Licari, which states that actual authority to consent to a search only exists when a landlord or property manager has common authority over the premises. 659 N.W.2d at 250. The “common authority” required by Licari is identified by the relationship of the parties to the premises, not on statutorily granted power. Id. at 250-51; see also Matlock, 415 U.S. at 171 n.7, 94 S. Ct. at 993 n.7. The plain language of section 504B.211 confers only rights of access to the property for limited means. Section 504B.211 does not confer on the landlord or property manager the right of mutual use required under Licari. See Minn. Stat. § 504B.211, subds. 2-4 (providing for rights of entry by landlord for specified purposes). Thus, the district court erred when it concluded that section 504B.211, subdivision 4(1), (3), gave J.C. actual authority to consent to entry of the apartment by police.

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