This decision has been referenced in a "Decisions Without Published Opinions" table in the North Western Reporter.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Gordon C. Abel, Judge. Rental property owner Michael Limmer appeals the district court's order reversing a magistrate's ruling that dismissed a city-issued citation for failure to provide adequate smoke detection on the property.
Rodney C. Dahlquist Jr. and Joshua W. Weir of Dornan, Lustgarten & Troia, Omaha, Nebraska, for appellant.
Don R.J. Bauermeister and Michael A. Sciortino, Council Bluffs, for appellee.
Heard by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.
Rental property owner Michael Limmer appeals the district court's order reversing a magistrate's ruling that dismissed a city-issued citation for failure to provide adequate smoke detection on his property. The district court concluded the city fire official was authorized by law to issue Limmer the citation and that issuance was an appropriate exercise of the official's authority. We affirm the ruling of the district court.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.
Michael Limmer owns rental properties in Council Bluffs, Iowa (the City), including a property located on Avenue C (the property). On December 23, 2010, Limmer submitted to the city a " Rental Self Certification Form" certifying he had inspected the property and verified it was in compliance with all of the minimum quality standards for residential dwellings required by the City. Among the items marked as verified by Limmer on the form's checklist was that the property had smoke detectors.
On February 2, 2011, a fire occurred at the property, and one occupant was injured. Council Bluffs fire inspector Robert Caughey inspected the property that day and found no smoke detectors present. Caughey reported the property's lack of smoke detectors to Council Bluffs building official Steve Carmichael and to fire department Captain Justin James, the " inspector/investigator/law enforcement officer" for the Council Bluffs Fire Marshal's Office. James was directed " to conduct an investigation to find whether there was probable cause to file a citation against [Limmer] for [an infraction of the Council Bluffs Municipal Code (City Code)]."
On February 15, 2011, Carmichael and Council Bluffs housing inspector Maureen Eiler inspected the property. In addition to the lack of smoke detectors, Eiler found several other code violations. The next day, Eiler issued a " Notice of Violation" to Limmer setting forth a number of violations of the " International Property Maintenance Code [(IPMC)] and/or City Code", including that there were no smoke detectors in the property. The notice stated Limmer had seven days to submit a written plan of action for correcting the deficiencies and thirty days to correct the deficiencies. Eiler left for vacation shortly thereafter.
On February 23, 2011, James issued Limmer four citations for first offense infractions of the City Code at the property. At issue here is citation number 11-03, which charged that on February 3, 2011, Limmer " did unlawfully and willfully" violate section 17.02.010 of the [City Code] and IPMC section 704.2 " by not providing adequate smoke detection in a rental property."  The citation provided for a fine of $750 and court costs of $85. Limmer appeared and denied each citation, and the matter was set for trial.
Meanwhile, Eiler learned after returning from vacation that the city's fire department had issued Limmer citations. In May 2011, Limmer informed her he had corrected the deficiencies. She then re-inspected the property and found the ...