Frustrated residents suggest South Fork-style restrictions on rentals

Nightly Mattituck rentals listed through
Nightly Mattituck rentals listed through

It seems like a win-win, renting out that rarely used summer home, or even your own home, to make a few extra bucks.

But residents across the East End, irked by an influx of short-term renters popping up in their otherwise close-knit neighborhoods, are questioning the trend, and saying it is compromising their quality of life.

Some of them gathered at Southold Town Hall last Tuesday asking the Town Board to address what they say is a trending new industry. 

Greenport resident Lori Hollander said more and more locals are “find[ing] themselves living next to an unregulated or unsupervised bed and breakfast or a transient hotel.”

She didn’t knock those who rent to visitors for several weeks or longer, but said her concern is with those who are renting to transients for as little as one night.

“If someone is [renting] for three weeks or a month or more, they are going to be more conscious of their neighborhood,” Ms. Hollander said. “When someone is coming for a weekend, they are coming to party.”

Ms. Hollander said online rental listing sites — like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO — are making it easy for homeowners to connect with prospective renters. Renters can advertise their space with a full listing of photos, prices, amenities, and the distances to nearby vineyards and hotspots.

Rental listings found on Airbnb ranged from a New Suffolk waterfront apartment for $300 a night, complete with bikes to roll into area wineries, to a two-bedroom cottage at $492 per night or $2,800 a week.

Basic searches, without putting in rental dates on HomeAway, yielded 24 listings in the hamlet of Mattituck starting at $67 a night. Greenport had 63 options available from $125 a night.

A visit to the VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) website showed similar results.

Cutchogue resident Charles Mogul, an agent with Andrew Style Realty in Mattituck, said he has seen a definite uptick in the number of requests for short-term rentals.

“It has almost doubled in the last year,” he said.

Ms. Hollander noted, “It’s been such a problem that in the Hamptons the [towns] have put restrictions on it,” she said. “They have changed town code.”

She asked that the Southold Town Board take a look at rental restrictions in Southampton and East Hampton towns, and use them as models.

Calling the rentals “unwarranted commercialization,” of their neighborhoods, the East Hampton Town Board changed its code to restrict rentals in residential areas to no less than two weeks at a time and no more than twice in six months, according to a code amendment.

But despite the defined law, hamlets throughout East Hampton are still experiencing issues with short-term rentals — especially in Montauk, according to articles in East Hampton Press.

To further regulate rentals, East Hampton has proposed the creation of a rental registry that would require owners of rental properties to register with the town’s building department and obtain a rental registration number, a press article states.

Adrienne Greenburgh of Greenport said that last week that she’d “like to know that I can walk out of my house and know who my neighbors are and feel safe,” said “If you know you’re going to have transients showing up every single weekend, it’s not a safe feeling.”

She asked that Town Board members “go online and get a list of what’s available [for rent] in your own neighborhood.”

“When it’s interfering with our quality of life and the reasons why we live out here, I think the Town Board should look at it,” said Cutchogue resident Peter Tourno.

It appeared as if that’s what Town Board members intend to do.

Supervisor Scott Russell mentioned that even he has considered renting his home out to help cover mortgage costs.

“I had no idea this problem existed so far and wide in Southold,” he said.

Town Board member Bob Ghosio said another resident had brought the trend to his attention about two weeks ago.

“It is something the board may have to look into as time goes on,” he said, noting that such rentals create issues with parking, overcrowding and potentially even beach access, as residents explained that guests use nearby beach parking when driveways at their rentals are not enough.

Councilman Jim Dinizio said he lives in a neighborhood with a known short-term rental and has seen some of the resulting impacts.

Councilwoman Jill Doherty said the Town Board has already started looking at the issue and will be reviewing the code changes made by East Hampton and Southampton towns.

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