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Southold Town Board revisiting its proposed rental permit law

Southold Town Board members have revisited the widely opposed rental permit law following several public hearings at which residents voiced concern about the burdens it may place on tenants.  

As currently written, the proposed law would require owners of rental properties to follow a permit application process, adhere to property maintenance guidelines and allow proper inspections of their property.

Town attorney Bill Duffy said the because owners expressed concerned about having to have their rental properties surveyed in order to obtain permits, the town will instead require only a valid certificate of occupancy.

“We’ll have the CO and engineers’ report and we can get by with that,” Mr. Duffy said at a work session Tuesday morning. “It seemed like a lot of public unhappiness was from requiring the survey, [which] would require a lot of additional expense.”

He added that the town also added language stating that although the law will take effect immediately once passed, it will not be enforced until Aug. 1, 2019, to allow landlords time to apply for permits. Mr. Duffy also said that, provided they are working with the town, landlords who have applied for but are still awaiting a permit after that date will not be penalized.

Councilwoman Jill Doherty said that based on New York State building codes, landlords are only allowed to rent to a certain number of people per room, based on a formula derived from the dimensions of each room. Although this is already set by code and the new law is not necessary to enforce this, asking owners for the dimensions of the bedrooms will allow the town to put the number of allowed occupants on the rental permit.

The town will also give the owners of rental properties a choice between hiring an engineer at their own expense to certify that their property complies with applicable building codes or allowing the town to conduct its own property inspection, at no cost.

Certificates of occupancy will be required only for structures in which space will be rented out, not for all structures on the property, as was stated in the original draft.

The board said it will read over the new rental permit law in the next few weeks and decide the next steps. Ms. Doherty was wary of sending the revision back to code committee because it might be scrapped completely and they would have to start from square one.

“It’s frustrating to be working on this for six months, and then to say, ‘OK, let’s do it a different way now,’ ” Ms. Doherty said.

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