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Top Stories 2015: Southold Town passes short-term rental law

short-term rentals

With only a couple of summer weekends left, the Southold Town Board passed a law on Aug. 25 that set a 14-night minimum for rentals of privately owned homes.

Intended to cut down on noise complaints and over-crowded streets, the controversial legislation prohibited short-term rentals which it defined as stays of less than 14 nights, booked through websites such as AirBnb and Home Away.

The response to violations of the law, which went into effect this fall, will vary on a case-by-case basis. Punishments range from an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal — essentially a warning — to a $8,000 fine, according to assistant town attorney Stephen Kiely.

The town also launched an online code violation complaint form in the first week of November to serve as another means of gathering information.

Mr. Kiely said he hopes the early months of enforcement during the offseason can help the town iron out the kinks in preparation of stronger code enforcement in 2016.

“A lot of these people say, ‘Well, I wouldn’t be able to afford this house and pay it off unless I rent it on a transient basis,’” he said. “Well, then you shouldn’t be buying it anyway.”

The law is not enforceable in Greenport Village where officials have decided they need more time to find a way to regulate short-term rentals. That decision came about a month after the village code committee proposed a law that defined a short-term rental as “less than 30 days” and requires anyone seeking a permit to undergo an inspection. It was tabled before it was considered.

In November, Suffolk County started cracking down on short-term rental owners who list their properties online and now requires them to collect and pay a hotel-motel tax from guests.