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Thread: Can private property search you?

  1. #1
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    Can private property search you?

    This is all second hand information, so until I get absolute facts, I'll leave out the name of the community.

    My brother, who also open carries, was recently helping a friend move in to his new apartment. As he was unloading his friends Uhaul, he was approached by the property security officer, and said that a tenant had reported of a man with a firearm. My brother assured the security officer that he was just helping his friend unload, and explained the law to him. The security officer then apparently nodded, and said that he understands, but it's his duty to ensure the safety of the tenants, and he is acting in accordance of everyone's "best interest" and asked him to please leave his firearm in his vehicle next time he visits. My brother politely complied, but asked to see if there's anything in the apartment policies that restricts the open carry of firearms.

    Apparently, the security officer took offense to this, and took it as an act of hostility, and then asked my brother if there's anything in his dufflebag that he should know about. My brother told him "No." but the security officer demanded to search his bag, for whatever reason. He told him that as long as he's on private property, he must either consent to have it searched, or leave immediately.

    I am pretty sure my brother has since filed a complaint with the property manager, but we haven't heard anything back. For the sake of everything, I don't want to disclose names or locations. At least not until we get a follow up.

    Is anyone here familiar with this type of situation? Do apartment personnel have the right to search anyone at the drop of a hat like that?

  2. #2
    Campaign Veteran gogodawgs's Avatar
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    NO.
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    Regular Member acmariner99's Avatar
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    This is awfully disturbing -- I wouldn't want to live anywhere that didn't allow me to protect myself. Based on the guard's reaction, I am not sure they would even allow firearms in the buildings themselves - and as a residence I am not sure if the landlord is allowed to do that.

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    Well did he leave or let security search his bag, I would have told him to piss up a rope.

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    Campaign Veteran slapmonkay's Avatar
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    This is of my opinion, there are a few variables at play here and I have not looked up any RCWs... My answer to the search is a no, they can not demand a search. The answer to whether they could then eject or remove the individual for not submitting is more of the question.

    Apartment owners, managers and agents may have the authority to ban an uninvited person from their property, but the tenant also has a right to have any guest they choose. One does not have to submit to anything if they are a invited person. Therefore, its likely would be a civil matter if the lessor had a problem with their tenant's guests, their only recourse is likely to evict the tenant if it constitutes a lease violation.
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    Regular Member Vitaeus's Avatar
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    will look for a cite a bit, but my initial reaction would be "NO". Buying a ticket to enter a movie theater, they can make a "search" part of the entry conditions or give a refund. When you lease a space from a landlord, you gain considerable privacy and expectation of being left alone. The "security" guy might have the ability to ask a visitor to leave, but I doubt that a guest of renter would qualify without a better reason than a legal activity (firearm). Did the lease specify anything about firearms?

  7. #7
    Opt-Out Members BigDave's Avatar
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    RCW 59.18 Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.

    This is the RCW that covers Rentals and the rights of the renter and landlord but I do not see anything concerning searching one property! and likely will not.
    The Security Officer does not have the authority to search and yet oddly enough if he does and finds something illegal and calls the police it may well stand up in court as he is not of a governmental agency restricting such actions.

    I would tell him to go piss up a rope as well.
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    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDave View Post
    RCW 59.18 Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.

    This is the RCW that covers Rentals and the rights of the renter and landlord but I do not see anything concerning searching one property! and likely will not.
    The Security Officer does not have the authority to search and yet oddly enough if he does and finds something illegal and calls the police it may well stand up in court as he is not of a governmental agency restricting such actions.

    I would tell him to go piss up a rope as well.
    I would have told him to procreate himself. He has absolutely no authority to search your property or you.

  9. #9
    Regular Member massivedesign's Avatar
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    Does this apartment complex have a clubhouse for rental? Sounds like a great place for a OC Meetup!
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  10. #10
    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    The landlord has the right to publish rules that prohibit certain items or certain conduct. So long as the landlord is not part of the .gov they can ban firearms, or the open display of firearms. It is a condition of the lease and needs to be spelled out in language plain enough that the potential tenant could have understood it if they had bothered to read through the lease before asigning it.

    That being said, the landlord's agent (security guard) has no right to inspect/search/view anyone's personal property unless a) the property is "in plain view" and does not require physically touching/moving it, or b) the owner consents to the inspection/search/viewing. If the owner's agent believes that a tenant is in violation of the terms of the lease he should be reporting it to the landlord, who will then deliver notice and a demand for a cure to the tenant.

    When the person whose property the owner's agent want to inspect/search/view has no connection to the property except that they are a guest of a tenant, the owner's agent can inform the tenant of their guest's inappropriate/not-allowed property and/or conduct and request the tenant to cure the problem. If the tenant refuses or does not effect a cure that satisfies the owner's agent he should report the matter to the landlord who may then take further action.

    If the guest's property or conduct is "outrageously endangering" the other tenants or the property as a whole the owner's agent may instruct the guest to leave the property and, if authorized in writing by the landlord, may initiate trespass action. If they are not so authorized they may call on the police to bluff the guest, and the guest and tenant may believe that the police do have the legal right to arrest. That may be dealt with at a later date in a courtroom.

    If th owner's agent is not properly authorized by both contract and by law, they are highly restricted as to what they can do. Here in VA many owner's agents (security guards) are Conservators of the Peace, commissioned by the local circuit court to enforce state law on the private property. They are, within the bounds of their commission, real cops who can really arrest someone. But they have to follow all the rules the cops on the public payroll have to follow - all that icky stuff about Probale Cause/Reasonable Suspicion and the like. I have no idea what the situation in WA is but I'm sure a quick search of the WRS using some basic search terms would clarify the matter.

    As to the specifics - if your brother's friend had pulled out his copy of the lease and asked the security guard to point to the clause that controls how, or if, someone can carry on the property, all this would have been nothing but an amusing story. And if there was a clause in the lease your brother and his friend would from then on be "on notice" about the matter.

    Hope some of this helps figure out how the situation can be resolved - especially the part about the owner's agent attempting to search a tenant's guest. As in (hint! hint!) a written complaint to the landlord which also mentions respondant superior liability (if the owner's agent screws up the owner can be held liable just as if they had personally committed the screw-up). This is also why I refer to the goonwanna-be as the owner's agent, instead of as the security guard. It lays out in what capacity the person was acting.

    stay safe.

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  11. #11
    Regular Member Ironside's Avatar
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    Hey Skid!

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    Nah, only 3 ... All the rest are true stories!

    Ha
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  12. #12
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    This would all be a civil matter unless an assault/battery occurs.

    Just walk away from the individual. If he stops your movement, its actionable.

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    Regular Member Vitaeus's Avatar
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    Thank you for the cite big Dave

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    Opt-Out Members BigDave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDave View Post
    RCW 59.18 Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.

    This is the RCW that covers Rentals and the rights of the renter and landlord but I do not see anything concerning searching one property! and likely will not.
    Quote Originally Posted by Vitaeus View Post
    Thank you for the cite big Dave
    You're most welcome Vitaeus.
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  15. #15
    Regular Member DeltaOps's Avatar
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    Been in the security buisiness. In WA the security guard has no right to search. It is an illegal search and he should be fired for his actions. Security Guards in WA have no more authority than a civilian, unless that security guard is commissioned. I highly doubt that person was. Even if that person was, they still can NOT search you or your bags or property. If you ever have a next time with that person, I would tell them to pack sand, just make sure you do it in a tactical manner.

    Remember, a security guard has no more authority than you or I as a civilian in WA State.
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    Regular Member Difdi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124 View Post
    Apparently, the security officer took offense to this, and took it as an act of hostility, and then asked my brother if there's anything in his dufflebag that he should know about. My brother told him "No." but the security officer demanded to search his bag, for whatever reason. He told him that as long as he's on private property, he must either consent to have it searched, or leave immediately.
    While a property owner or authorized agent (such as a security guard) can order someone to leave private property, that presumes the person being ordered out has no right to remain there. A tenant cannot be ordered out of the property without a formal eviction (which has certain rules that must be followed to be valid). A guest of a tenant likewise has a lesser right to be there than the tenant does, but the guest does have some rights in the matter. The security guard is there to keep trespassers and burglars out, not to adjudicate who a tenant can have as a guest. If the guest (or tenant) is loud or rowdy, the security guard can call the police, but lacks direct authority otherwise.

    But when making a "do this or get out" statement, you have to be very careful of phrasing. It's possible to commit coercion (gross misdemeanor) if you come on too strongly while making such a demand. I don't think the security guard tripped over the line, but any threat of force would.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124 View Post
    Is anyone here familiar with this type of situation? Do apartment personnel have the right to search anyone at the drop of a hat like that?
    Yes and no. Anyone can request permission to conduct a search. And anyone can decline permission. Searching without permission is at least assault, and probably robbery (removing property by force from the owner while the owner is present meets the test, value of property stolen is irrelevant). Police have greater search authority than a security guard does, and police would need a warrant to conduct a search.

    Quote Originally Posted by skidmark View Post
    The landlord has the right to publish rules that prohibit certain items or certain conduct. So long as the landlord is not part of the .gov they can ban firearms, or the open display of firearms. It is a condition of the lease and needs to be spelled out in language plain enough that the potential tenant could have understood it if they had bothered to read through the lease before signing it.
    Yes and no. Courts can rule a clause of a contract unconscionable, and thus unenforceable. A contract clause that forbids you to exercise a constitutional right will absolutely be ruled unconscionable by a court, particularly in this state.

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    Regular Member amlevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gogodawgs View Post
    NO.
    Maybe he doesn't have the right to forcibly search the bag but his statement "that as long as he's on private property, he must either consent to have it searched, or leave immediately" is pretty much within the rights of a private property owner.

    Like it or not, your presence on private property is by permission of the property owner. It can be revoked for pretty much any reason they want.

    Frankly, I wouldn't choose to live in an apartment complex that required a security guard.
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    Can private property search you?

    Quote Originally Posted by amlevin View Post
    Maybe he doesn't have the right to forcibly search the bag but his statement "that as long as he's on private property, he must either consent to have it searched, or leave immediately" is pretty much within the rights of a private property owner.

    Like it or not, your presence on private property is by permission of the property owner. It can be revoked for pretty much any reason they want.

    Frankly, I wouldn't choose to live in an apartment complex that required a security guard.
    It is important to find out of this guard even has the property owners permission to try this. It may be owned by someone but all your rights hit don't go out the door. What if he said I need to search your apartment. The property owner is leasing the property. The lessee has some rights as well. What if the property owner said you can't have any one wearing a red shirt come over?

  19. #19
    Regular Member DeltaOps's Avatar
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    Lets stay away from the renters private property. They were not in the rental, they were outside unloading a Uhaul when they were approached. Anyone can ask to search your belongings, it is up to that person to either let them search or choose to say NO! It does not matter if that person is on the Apartments property,if you choose to say no, NOBODY can search your belongings unless that person is a LEO and has a warrant. Do not get misimformed about private property B.S.

    In all reality, two things should have happened in this scenerio.

    1. Inform the security guard that he is in violation of your rights
    2. Called the company the security guard works for and speak to a supervisor.

    Does not matter about the time, I owuld have called his employer or demanded that he get his supervisor on the phone. The security guard only has one job. To help deter threats. However, if something was to happen, he can only do two things, call his supervisor and call LE. He can not in any way subdue or actually try to interact with any crim that is happening, unless it is life threating.

    Basically having a security guard (unless commissioned) on ones property is like walking around with a unloaded pistol on your side. It may help deter the threat but if something was to really happen, it is useless.

    If he hasn't gone through the right channels to get this issue solved, you may want to get this going before this guard actually does more damage.
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  20. #20
    Regular Member OC for ME's Avatar
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    Was Paul Blart armed? He knows/hopes that you likely being a LAC he had a 50/50 chance of getting you to comply.
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    Regular Member rapgood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Difdi View Post
    <snip>
    probably robbery (removing property by force from the owner while the owner is present meets the test, value of property stolen is irrelevant).
    Close. In Washington, an act of theft does not rise to the level of being "robbery" unless the property is taken forceably from the person who is the owner (not merely present, but from his actual person). Otherwise, it is only theft of some degree, based upon the value of the property taken, or a special classification of theft, such as of a firearm, automobile, etc.
    Rev. Robert Apgood, Esq.

    A right cannot be lost by exercising it. McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025, 130 S. Ct. 3020, 3021, 177 L. Ed. 2d 894 (2010) (citing Near v. Minn., 283 U.S. 697 (1931)).

    Although IAAL, anything I say here is not legal advice. No conversations we may have privately or otherwise in this forum constitute the formation of an attorney-client relationship, and are not intended to do so.

  22. #22
    Regular Member rapgood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Difdi View Post
    <snip> I don't think the security guard tripped over the line, but any threat of force would.
    I think he not only tripped over the line, I think he took an Olympic-sized leap.
    Rev. Robert Apgood, Esq.

    A right cannot be lost by exercising it. McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025, 130 S. Ct. 3020, 3021, 177 L. Ed. 2d 894 (2010) (citing Near v. Minn., 283 U.S. 697 (1931)).

    Although IAAL, anything I say here is not legal advice. No conversations we may have privately or otherwise in this forum constitute the formation of an attorney-client relationship, and are not intended to do so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rapgood View Post
    i think he not only tripped over the line, i think he took an olympic-sized leap.
    + 1 lol

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    How is this different from being searched at SAFECO field? I genuinely don't know...

  25. #25
    Regular Member massivedesign's Avatar
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    At safeco you are entering a venue, in which you paid for admission. Admission to the venue is contingent upon following certain rules.

    Helping a friend move into his apartment complex (which grants him some additional rights as a resident on the grounds), doesn't even come close comparing to Safeco's policies.
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