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Rental permit law receives backlash

The Town Board  held a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed rental permit law that would require owners of rental properties to follow a permit application procedure, adhere to property maintenance guidelines and allow proper inspections of their property. The law would not be enforced until August 2019 to give property owners ample time to apply for the permits.

Anne Murray of East Marion was the only resident to express support for the proposed law, citing the example of a home in East Hampton that was found Monday to have 32 non-related residents living in it.

Southold resident and attorney Patricia Moore noted that East Hampton has a rental law, so she does not think the similar measure proposed here will make a difference.

“So the fact that the rental permit law is instituted does not prevent the overcrowding or noncompliance with housing safety codes,” Ms. Moore said. “So the thought that a law will prevent that, just as a matter of evidence, that’s not the case.”

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said that there are 3.5 code enforcement officers in the town, which concerned Orient resident Salem Katsh.

“Three and half [employees] to fix these ‘serious conditions,’ that are throughout the Town of Southold, that require this law, that are going to do all these inspections and issue all these permits, consider all of the forms?” Mr. Katsh said. “You’re going to have what you have with the short-term rental law: no enforcement.”

Mr. Katsh, along with other residents, asked the town to consider a study or a fact-finding mission to see if this law is necessary, but Councilwoman Jill Doherty said there is enough evidence from past events, like fires.

“We don’t have to wait for something serious to happen before we have to try to keep our areas safe,” she said. “This is not a reactionary code, it’s a preventive code.”

Other concerns included extra costs for surveying property and older houses that may not comply with the law because of the way they were built years ago.

Mr. Russell acknowledged the public’s concerns, but added that the town has to consider serious ailments to the town like absentee landlords or displacement of those who don’t comply with the code. The public hearing was closed and Mr. Russell said the board will decide whether to rewrite the entire law or pass it at its next meeting on Aug. 14.

The proposed rental permit code has already undergone several revisions. The Town Board postponed a vote on a previous version after hearing feedback from real estate agents in June. The later effective date for the code was one of the changes made at that time, as was the removal of a section on the responsibility of real estate brokers or agents.

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Photo caption: Anne Murray spoke out at the hearing. (Rachel Siford photo)

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