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Nov 13, 2014 8:04 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town Board Drops Proposed Rental Registry

Nov 18, 2014 3:41 PM

After getting an earful from East Hampton real estate agents, homeowners and landlords at last week’s November 12 work session, the East Hampton Town Board decided on Tuesday to drop the idea of a rental registry, although some elements of the proposal might be incorporated into existing town code.

The decision was unanimous, as board members said they thought approval of the law would be problematic, based on its apparent lack of public backing.

Councilman Fred Overton, who took on the challenge of crafting a rental registry law, said he would rather take certain provisions in the proposed law and add them into the current code, rather than create an entirely new law. “If it’s something the community is overwhelmingly against then I won’t support it,” he said at the November 12 Town Board work session.

“Rentals are a huge part of the community and part of the economics and livelihood and well-being of people,” Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said on Tuesday. “It’s been said—don’t put a large net out to catch a small fish. If we can find better ways to enforce the code … I’m all ears.”

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell agreed there wasn’t enough backing for the proposal, based on public commentary and emails that have been sent to him.

“I think there’s a serious lack of support,” he said last week. “But there are very serious issues we need to address here as well—whether the rental registry law is a vehicle to help us get there or not. We all have serious questions about serious issues relating to violations and quality of life issues. These are very important to me and the board, and we’ve got to find a better way to do a better job of enforcing those laws.”

While some speakers at the November 12 meeting said they were in favor of the idea of requiring landlords to register their rental properties with the town, most in attendance at the meeting seemed fervently against the idea, many speaking up to say that it would not only be an overreach but that it would hurt East Hampton’s economy, and families as well.

“This whole shebang literally kicks our founding fathers right in the teeth,” said longtime East Hampton bayman Stuart Vorpahl, who has in the past challenged the state over fishing regulations he thought were onerous. “This rental registry is a big government hand in the back of my pocket. If you’ve got a dozen mosquitoes, you don’t take a 12-gauge shotgun to shoot them.”

The law, which was meant to target overcrowding and share houses, would have required owners of rental properties to pay an application fee and register a property with the town. Owners of rental properties would have to fill out a one-page form and provide an affidavit about the number of people they would rent to, the number of bedrooms and the square footage of each bedroom, the proposed rental period, and whether there is a valid certificate of occupancy. In addition, homeowners would have had to acknowledge that there would be refuse removal weekly for the entirety of the rental period.

The homeowner would have been given a rental registration number that would be listed in any rental advertisements for the property. If anything were to change, such as a new tenant coming in, or if the lease expired or was renewed, the homeowner would’ve had to file again with the registry.

Any information the town collected could have been used as “presumptive evidence” of a rental that has over-occupancy or a multi-family occupancy, which town officials said would help with the prosecution of someone who abused the system. Meanwhile, anyone failing to register a rental property would’ve faced violations, which could escalate to a misdemeanor criminal charge, with possible fines and imprisonment.

There would have been a daily $1,000 fine for non-compliance, when someone doesn’t have a registry number, which would have increased based on separate and multiple offenses, with jail time as a possibility.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said that increasing the penalties and fines, is something the town could incorporate in current code to deter violations.

Some landlords last week said they were worried about inadvertently getting into trouble with the law, by renting to a couple or a family who then invites friends and family to stay with them without permission, creating an overcrowding situation.

But homeowners who said they have had enough of the incessant partying and constant influx of people from share houses and summer rentals spoke in favor of the town taking some action on the matter, even if it means adding another layer of bureaucracy.

“I believe the proposed law, yes, is not perfect by any means, but the rental registry is, however, a valuable tool, even if, like in Southampton, is not widely accepted … it would give enforcement officers great leverage without entering the home,” Bill Akin, a former president of Concerned Citizens of Montauk, said at last Wednesday’s work session. “Right now, I’m living in a motel zone.”

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Hey Bill Akin--it's not all about you
By nazznazz (276), east hampton on Nov 18, 14 6:34 PM