INSPECTION AND WARRANT POLICY
Administrative Rule Adopted by Bureau Pursuant to Rule-Making
The Bureau of Buildings is responsible for enforcing the building
construction, zoning, property maintenance, and related statutes or ordinances
which the Bureau of Buildings is authorized to enforce. These statutes or
ordinances exist to protect the health, safety and welfare of Portland citizens
and to contribute to neighborhood vitality by setting minimum standards for
structures and surrounding property. Bureau inspectors enforce these statutes or
ordinances through onsite inspections.
Property owners, occupants, or contractors request most field inspections.
Properties are also inspected as the result of complaints or as part of a
systematic inspection program. Bureau of Buildings staff inspect the property
for compliance with the statutes or ordinances and contact property owners,
contractors, property managers, or occupants with resulting issues. The Bureau
of Buildings goal is voluntary compliance; however it is sometimes necessary to
inspect or abate public nuisances or dangerous conditions on private property
without the consent of the owner or occupants. Emergency, or summary inspections
and abatements are also sometimes necessary to protect the public's health or
In order to protect the health and safety of the public in a way that is
consistent with the rights of citizens to be free from unreasonable intrusion
onto their private property, this section sets forth the policy for Bureau of
Buildings inspections on private property.
A. Inspector Safety: The safety of Bureau of Buildings field and office staff
is of paramount importance. If at any time a field inspector believes their
health or safety is threatened, the inspector will immediately end the
inspection, seek a place of safety, and request assistance from the Inspections
Supervisor, Police, or any other appropriate person.
1 Inspection: Means all entries onto private property to inspect or
investigate for violations of statutes or ordinances the Bureau of Buildings
is charged with enforcing, including inspections for abating hazardous
2. Occupied: Means a yard area of or structure on a property that
reasonably appears to be in the possession of and actively used by a person
with apparent authority to allow entry onto the property.
3. Person with Apparent Authority: Means a person, eighteen or older, who
reasonably appears to be either the owner or any other person to whom the
owner has granted care, custody, and control over the property.
4. Reasonable Cause: M- that the inspector has a reasonable basis for
believing that violations of statutes or ordinances exist at the property
based on an inspector's knowledge and experience of, including but not limited
to, prior complaints and inspections involving the same property, property
owner, property occupant, property manager, and any other entity.
5. Statute or Ordinance: Means Portland City Code Titles 24,25,26,27,28,29,
32 or 33; or any other City or State of Oregon statute, ordinance, regulation,
rule, standard, or order which the Bureau of Buildings has been authorized to
6. Unobstructed: Means not barricaded, fenced off, secured or otherwise
indicating an intention to prevent access and maintain privacy.
7. Unoccupied: Means a yard area of or structure on a property which does
not reasonably appear to be in possession of and actively used by a person
with apparent authority to allow entry onto the property.
8. Vacant: Means a yard area of or structure on an occupied property
where no occupants are- present.
Except where otherwise specifically noted above, terms used in this policy
will be interpreted according to the definitions in Titles 24,25,26,27,28,29,32
and 33. If not defined in those codes, these terms will be interpreted according
to their ordinary and customary definition.
C. Inspections: In order to carry out the purposes of the statutes or
ordinances, inspectors from the Bureau of Buildings, upon presenting appropriate
credentials, are authorized to enter without delay onto property and to inspect
the property for compliance with those statutes or ordinances. Inspections of
private property will generally be performed during regular working hours and at
other reasonable times, and within reasonable limits and in a reasonable manner.
However, inspection supervisors may authorize inspections at other times in
order to accommodate property owners, contractors, law enforcement agencies, or
special programs authorized by the Director. Inspections may be made on private
property without a warrant in the following circumstances.
1. Emergency Creates Immediate Hazards: Where emergency circumstances are
found such that prior application for a warrant is not possible without severe
immediate danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the occupants, or that
of the general public, an inspection or abatement may occur without a
Whenever it reasonably appears to an inspector that violations exist to the
extent that a severe immediate danger is posed to the health, safety, or
welfare of the occupants, or that of the general public, the inspector may
enter onto property without a warrant to verify the nature, severity, and
extent of the violations or to abate such conditions giving rise to the
immediate severe hazards.
2. Permission: Inspectors may enter the yards or structures of private
property to make inspections when authorized by a person with apparent
authority to allow entry onto the property. Permit inspections, tenant
complaints concerning conditions in their dwelling or common areas, and
requested recheck inspections from a property owner, contractor, or occupant
are some examples of inspections made with permission. Inspectors who are
uncertain about whether permission has been granted shall terminate the
inspections and make a reasonable attempt to n o w the owner or other persons
having charge or control of the property and request entry.
3. Occupied Property:
a. Areas Open to the General Public: Inspectors may enter areas of
occupied private property if it reasonably appears that the area to be
entered is open for use by the general public. Areas considered open for use
by the general public include, but are not limited to, unobstructed common
driveways for-commercial or multifamily structures, unobstructed common
vehicle parking areas for commercial and multifamily structures,
unobstructed common walkways leading up to the main entrance(s) of
commercial and multifamily structures, unobstructed main hallway(d) of
commercial and multifamily structures, and customer areas of retail
b. To Request Permission: If inspections can be made without entry onto
the property to be inspected, the inspector shall do so. If the inspection
requires entry onto portions of the property not open for use by the general
public including structures, the inspector may enter onto unobstructed
property and approach the main entrance of the main structure by the most
direct route to request permission to inspect. The inspector shall present
proper credentials, state the purpose of the proposed inspection and request
entry. If no one with apparent authority to allow entry is present, if entry
is denied, or if the property is obstructed, the inspector shall terminate
the inspection and leave by the most direct route.
If at any time during an inspection it reasonably appears person with
apparent authority to allow entry onto the property wishes the inspection to
end, the inspector shall terminate the inspection and leave the premises by the
most direct route
4. Unoccupied Property:
a. Entry into Yards: If inspections can be made without entry onto the
property to be inspected, the inspector do so. Inspectors may enter
unobstructed yard areas of- unoccupied property to make inspections. If at
any time during an inspection it reasonably appears person with apparent
authority. to allow entry onto the property orders the inspector to leave,
the Inspector shall terminate the inspection and leave the premises by the
most direct route.
b. Entry into Structures: If structures on the property are unoccupied
and secured, the inspector shall first make a reasonable attempt to notify
the owner or other persons having charge or control of the property and
request entry to the structures. If entry is refused, or if a responsible
party cannot be located, the inspector will notify the Inspections
Supervisor. The Inspections Supervisor will then determine whether to start
the process for obtaining a search warrant or other appropriate legal order
from a court of competent jurisdiction. If the structures are unoccupied and
open, the inspector may enter to determine if imminently hazardous
conditions exist. If hazardous conditions exist, the inspector shall notify
the owner of the condition and order the premises immediately secured
against the entry by unauthorized persons.
D. Warrants: Except in the case of an emergency or other exception listed
above, if an inspector is denied access to a property for the purpose of an
inspection or abatement on the premises, such inspection shall not be conducted
without an administrative search warrant or without such other authority as a
court may grant in an appropriate civil proceeding. If an inspector is denied
access to a property, he/she shall notify the Inspections Supervisor, who may
then determine whether to start the process for obtaining an administrative
search warrant or other appropriate legal order from a court of competent
1. Issuance of Administrative Search Warrants: The Bureau shall apply to
the Presiding Judge of Multnomah County, or for properties located in another
county the appropriate local magistrate, for the issuance of administrative
search warrants for inspections or nuisance abatements required or authorized
by statutes or ordinances the Bureau of Buildings is charged with enforcing.
The administrative search warrant is an order authorizing the Bureau to
inspect or investigate at a designated property.
2. Applications for Issuance of Administrative Search Warrants;
Requirements of Affidavit:
a. An application for an administrative search warrant shall be
accompanied by a supporting affidavit particularly describing the following
minimum elements: (1) the affiant's employment background and experience;
(2) the statute or ordinance requiring or authorizing the inspection or
nuisance abatement; (3) the address or other description of the property or
structure to be inspected or at which the nuisance exists, which is
sufficient to identify the property; and (4) the purpose for which the
inspection or abatement is to be made. In addition, the affidavit shall
contain either a statement that entry has been sought and refused, or facts
or circumstances reasonably showing that the purposes of the inspection or
abatement might be frustrated if entry were sought without an administrative
search warrant. The affidavit shall also describe, with reasonable
particularity, the violations of statute or ordinance existing, or believed
to exist, with respect to the particular property or structure, or that an
inspection is reasonably believed to be necessary in order to determine or
verify whether any such violations exist at the property or structure.
b. The application shall identify proposed restrictions upon the service
of the warrant, including a request that it be executed on any day of the
week between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., or if there are special
circumstance preventing the effective execution between those hours, that it
be executed at any additional or other time of the day or night.
c. Applications for administrative search warrants not involving
abatements will request the warrant allow 10 days from its date for
execution and return to the magistrate by whom it was issued. Applications
for administrative search warrants involving abatements will request the
warrant allow 15 days from its date for execution and return to the
magistrate by whom it was issued.
3. Execution of Administrative Search Warrants:
a. Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, in executing an
administrative search warrant, the person authorized by the magistrate to
execute the warrant shall, before entry, make a reasonable effort to present
the person's credentials, authority and purpose to an occupant or person in
possession of the property designated in the warrant and show the occupant
or person in possession of the property the warrant or a copy thereof upon
b. In executing an administrative search warrant, the person authorized
to execute the warrant may promptly enter the designated property if it is
or reasonably believed to be vacant or unoccupied. Such person need not
inform anyone of the person's authority and purpose, as prescribed in
subsection (a) of this section.
c. A peace officer may be requested to assist in the execution of the
administrative search warrant. Such peace officer may assist the person
authorized to execute the warrant, including using any reasonable force
necessary, to enter the property.
d. After serving the warrant, the inspector may make the authorized
e. If at any time during the inspection the inspector believes their
health or safety is threatened, they will end the inspection, leave the
premises by the most direct route, and contact the Inspection Supervisor,
police, or other appropriate party for assistance.
f. For warrants involving abatements, the Return of Service will contain
a description of the categories and quantity of items seized. The Bureau
will maintain photographs of items seized in an abatement for such length of
time as required by law and will make them available for copying or review
by the public. The return of Service will also include a statement that
photographs generally showing the items seized are available for review at
the Bureau of Buildings.
Filed by Bureau of Development Services for inclusion in PPD September 29,
Originally published as Bureau of Buildings Procedure No. B-1-32 dated
September 21, 1998.