Oakwood spends $295K on lawsuit, defends inspection program

Oakwood leaders this week approved spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to resolve a lawsuit involving a city inspection program, then defended the program and said it will continue.

Oakwood City Council agreed to pay $295,000 as a result of a class-action lawsuit regarding the city’s Pre-Sale Inspection Program.

About $73,000 will go to 1,055 plaintiffs to refund a $60 inspection fee, according to city officials. More than $200,000 will be spent to covering attorney fees.

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The inspection program required that properties pass an inspection by the city before being sold.

A lawsuit filed by the 1851 Center in federal court in May 2016 claimed the requirement was like a warrant-less search.

In February, Judge Thomas M. Rose in the Southern District of Ohio rejected the pre-sale inspections, granting a refund of inspection fees.

The city then updated the ordinance to comply with the law.

An Oakwood statement said the case centered around a lack of a search warrant provision in the ordinance “that would allow for independent judicial review in the event that a property owner refused consent for the inspection.”

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“Without that language, the ordinance appeared to mandate a minor misdemeanor criminal penalty for refusing an inspection,” the statement said.

In 1992, search warrant language was left out of the ordinance accidentally, according to Oakwood Law Director Rob Jacques.

“This was a scrivener’s error, a drafting mistake, that happened more than 25 years ago,” Jacques said. “Despite the court’s finding of liability, the ordinance was never implemented in an unconstitutional manner, and the city never had so much as a single complaint prior to this lawsuit.”

Bob Jones, director of communications for Dayton Realtors, said the organization still opposes to pre-sale inspections.

“As the trade association for all Realtors in Oakwood and the Miami Valley, Dayton Realtors opposes point-of-sale inspections by municipalities,” Jones said. “Our position is consistent with policies that are in place at the state and national levels.”

He said Dayton Realtors opposes the inspections because such programs interfere with the right of property owners to sell and the right of buyers to seek an ownership interest in real property.

Jennifer Wilder, director of personnel and properties for Oakwood, previously said local real estate agents have expressed support for the pre-sale program.

Much of Oakwood’s housing stock dates back to the 1920s and 1930s, Wilder has said, and virtually no substandard housing exists.

The program ensures that “Oakwood housing remains both safe and desirable, and home values remain high,” Wilder has said.

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