C.D.Cal.: LA ordinance on providing hotel rental info valid under Patel

An LA ordinance requires certain information from hotel and motel renters which survives analysis under Patel. The information is not private information, and it’s not even a search. If it was, it would be a valid administrative search. City of L.A. AIHM Hotel/Motel Ass’n v. City of L.A., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 191232 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 1, 2019):

Defendant points out that rent registration information is “routinely submitted to the City to determine, for example, maximum rents, allowable rent increases, and rent restrictions.” MJP at 13 (citing LAMC §§ 151.02, 151.04, 151.05). Defendant relies on S.F. Apartment Ass’n v. City & County of S.F., 881 F.3d 1169 (9th Cir. 2018), where plaintiffs challenged a San Francisco ordinance requiring landlords to submit buyout agreements to the city for placement on a public database. Id. at 1174. The database made publicly available the landlords’ business contact information, the address of any rental unit subject to a buyout agreement, certification of compliance with the ordinance, and copies of the buyout agreements. Id. Under the San Francisco ordinance, “financial information relating to real estate and land use transactions is regularly filed with government entities and made publicly accessible.” Id. at 1179. Therefore, the Ninth Circuit concluded that “landlords do not have a legally protected privacy interest or reasonable expectation of privacy in the information made publicly available by the Ordinance.” Id. at 1178.

Like the ordinance in S.F. Apartment Ass’n, the Ordinance here requires Plaintiffs to report information routinely collected by the City. See LAMC §§ 151.02, 151.04, 151.05. Plaintiffs similarly have no reasonable expectation of privacy in that publicly available information, and thus their heavy reliance on City of Los Angeles v. Patel, 135 S. Ct. 2443, 192 L. Ed. 2d 435 (2015), is misplaced. See Pls.’ Opp. at 9-10 [Doc. # 26]. In Patel, plaintiffs challenged a municipal ordinance that required hotel operators to record and keep guest information and make those records available for immediate inspection by police officers. 135 S. Ct. at 2445. The ordinance also permitted the immediate arrest of and imposition of criminal penalties on any hotel operators who refused to give access to the records. Id. at 2452. Although the Supreme Court acknowledged that the ordinance might fall under the “administrative search” exception, which permits government officials to conduct warrantless searches for administrative purposes, it ultimately held the ordinance unconstitutional because it did not provide the hotel operators an opportunity to seek pre-compliance review before facing penalties for failing to comply. Id. at 2452-53.

But unlike in Patel, here, no Fourth Amendment search occurred, and even if it did, it would be a constitutional administrative search. First, the rent registry requirements do not constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment because, as mentioned above, Plaintiffs did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy to the information requested. See Katz, 389 U.S. at 360. Unlike the ordinance in Patel, the Ordinance here does not seek documents from landlords or renters, or call for any form of inspection. See generally Ordinance. Second, even if the Court considered the rent registration requirements a search, it would constitute an administrative search because its “primary purpose” is “distinguishable from the general interest in crime control.” Patel, 135 S. Ct. at 2452 (citing Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32, 44, 121 S. Ct. 447, 148 L. Ed. 2d 333 (2000)). Generally, “in order for an administrative search to be constitutional, the subject of the search must be afforded an opportunity to obtain precompliance review before a neutral decisionmaker.” Id. at 2452 (citing See v. City of Seattle, 387 U.S. 541, 544, 87 S. Ct. 1737, 18 L. Ed. 2d 943 (1967)). The Ordinance explicitly states, “A landlord disputing the Department’s notification of deficient registration may file a written appeal within ten calendar days of the date of the notice deficiency,” further distinguishing the situation in Patel. RJN, Ex. 3-2 at 6. Furthermore, Plaintiffs make only conclusory allegations that they would be subject to civil or criminal sanctions for violating the Ordinance. See Compl. at ¶ 16.

This entry was posted in Administrative search, Reasonable expectation of privacy. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.