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Orient property owner ignored new short-term rental law, town says

07/15/2016 9:00 AM |

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For the first time, Southold Town has taken legal action in state court against a short-term rental owner, accusing an Orient landlord of continuing to violate the town’s 14-night minimum stay requirement for rentals. 

The town filed the suit against Petros Kougentakis of Brooklyn last Thursday in state Supreme Court and got a temporary restraining order against Mr. Kougentakis that prevents him from renting his property on Windward Road for fewer than 14 days at a time.

Mr. Kougentakis — who currently charges rental prices for the property starting at $1,050 per night on airbnb.com — was originally issued four tickets on Nov. 16, as was previously reported in The Suffolk Times.

One ticket was for violating the transient rental law, which was approved by the Town Board on Aug. 25, 2015. Other tickets were for converting the basement into living space without proper town permits.

But town officials say Mr. Kougentakis didn’t stop renting. A complaint filed online by a neighbor alerted a town code enforcement officer to a party at the house soon after.

An investigation found the property was home to 25 guests and 15 cars out front during a “Friendsgiving” pre-Thanksgiving celebration, assistant town attorney Stephen Kiely said at the time.

“That’s just a great example of how the technology and code enforcement works,” Mr. Kiely had said. “We would not have known but for the online complaint system.”

Again, Mr. Kougentakis was ticketed and summoned to town court. Town Attorney William Duffy said the homeowner had promised not to rent anymore, but has since broken that promise.

“He continued to rent in violation of the short-term transient rental law,” Mr. Duffy said.

Mr. Kougentakis couldn’t be reached for comment before presstime. A rental listing on airbnb.com states the property — which accommodates up to 12 guests in five bedrooms and is described as a “dream vacation house on [Long Island] Sound” — is currently available for rent. The online listing states the property must be rented for a minimum of 14 nights.

Southold Town’s short-term rental law took effect last year after months of controversy surrounding how the town should regulate rental property landlords. The law saw pushback earlier this year from a group of about a dozen Southold Town landlords, who claim they should be grandfathered in to the code and allowed to continue renting. Other short-term landlords have tried to turn their homes into bed-and-breakfast establishments; one Cutchogue woman who lives on Holden Avenue has already received approval from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals to operate a bed-and-breakfast at her former Airbnb rental.

Mr. Kougentakis is one of five homeowners who have been taken to town court over the short-term rental law. The other four property owners have all since followed the law, Mr. Duffy said.

Twenty property owners have been issued notices of violation concerning the law, he added, saying the notice was often enough to stop short-term rental landlords.

“We strive for compliance first,” Mr. Duffy said.

Photo caption: The house on Windward Road pictured in late 2015. (Credit: Chris Lisinski, file)

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