If you live at a local apartment complex called The Pointe, you have no right to privacy.
You should, though. According to Florida statutes, the privacy rights of a resident living in a rented apartment aren’t that different than those of a resident living in a house he or she owns. The primary differences are that when you rent, the owner of the property can enter your apartment without permission for a few reasons: emergencies, inspections repairs, etc. Beyond that, the statutes state, “The landlord shall not abuse the right of access nor use it to harass the tenant.”
Jamila Nicholson, the property manager at The Pointe, told the Oracle she enters apartments routinely – but not to sniff out leaky sinks. She’s been entering the apartments to look for weapons, drugs and who knows what else. Nicholson admitted to looking inside drawers, but unconfirmed reports say she also looked in closets. According to a standard lease signed by residents of The Pointe, the complex and its agents have the right to “inspect, model, repair, maintain and protect the apartment and (the tenant’s) bedroom as (they) see fit.”
One can inspect an apartment without looking inside drawers. One can inspect a closet without looking through its contents. One can maintain an apartment complex without being a snoop or a vigilante.
It’s not merely a matter of a property manager overstepping her bounds and assuming the role of a police officer. What The Pointe has done is in direct violation of Florida statutes governing tenant/landlord agreements, and it is in violation of the spirit of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizure, shall not be violated.”
Every associate of The Pointe that the Oracle spoke to refused to refer to the searches as such, taking exception to the term and preferring the word “inspections.”
Regardless of what they’re called, they’re illegal. The fact that the complex’s employees and ownership think they can openly violate state law by arguing semantics is a testament that, regardless of their claims to the contrary, they know that what they’re doing is – as USF government and international affairs professor Stephen Tauber said – “absolutely despicable and disgusting.”