Business and Corporate
Baton Rouge Metro Council Passes Devin's Law, Adopts New Regulations on Rental Properties
Devin's Law enacts new regulations dealing with security cameras, lighting, and disclosure of criminal activity.
By Bradley C. Guin
With respect to security cameras, Section 8A:210(a)(1) states, in relevant part: “All rental properties may install and maintain security cameras capable of obtaining clear, discernable footage of every portion of the rental property which is not located within the confines of the building or structure itself.” This requirement is not mandatory, since the ordinance uses the permissive “may” and not the mandatory “shall.” If security cameras are used in connection with this ordinance, then the security camera system should “be capable of storing and maintaining all footage for a period of 30 days.”
Section 8A:210(a)(3) appears to make it mandatory that rental properties hand over security camera footage to law enforcement. It states: “If security cameras are installed pursuant to this section, the rental property must immediately provide copies of any and all available footage to law enforcement upon request.” This section is problematic. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees all persons the right to be free “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Generally speaking, this requires the police to first obtain a warrant before conducting a search. And to obtain a warrant, the police need probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. This section of Devin’s Law, however, appears to do away with these threshold requirements and, therefore, may be unconstitutional.
As to lighting, Section 8A:210(b)(1) states, in relevant part: “All rental properties may install and maintain lighting capable of illuminating every portion of the rental property which is not located within the confines of the building or structure itself.” Again, this provision is optional, since the ordinance uses the word “may” instead of “shall.” The ordinance explains that this provision applies to “all parking lots, walkways, sidewalks, grassy areas, playground areas and trash collection areas.”
The ordinance also imposes new disclosure requirements on rental properties. Section 8A:210(c)(1) requires “any owner, property manager or property management company who is responsible for or has control over the rental property” to “disclose to any prospective tenant the resources where the prospective tenant may obtain data regarding criminal incidents occurring within close proximity of the rental property.” This disclosure must be made prior to leasing the property. The disclosure must include information provided by Open Data BR or the Baton Rouge Police Department. The disclosure required by Devin’s Law may be posted in the rental office, made available online, or delivered in writing to prospective tenants.
Finally, the ordinance imposes penalties for noncompliance. Violators of Devin’s Law must first be given a warning and a 15-day period within which to cure the violation. If the violation is not correct within the cure period, then violators may be fined an amount not to exceed $500, and each day’s failure to comply constitutes a separate violation.
The new ordinance leaves several questions unanswered. For instance, the ordinance does not define “rental properties.” Thus, short-term rental property owners, like those who use AirBnB, may be subject to Devin’s Law, since the ordinance does not limit its application to only traditional, long-term rental properties. Also, the ordinance does not distinguish between residential and commercial rental properties.
Devin’s Law goes into effect on January 1, 2023.