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Town Board OKs new vacation rentals registry

The Town of Southold authorized the town attorney’s office to develop and implement a seasonal use dwelling unit registry at a regular meeting last Tuesday.

The town is establishing the registry in response to a state law on rental deposits. Seasonal use dwelling units are exempt from a clause that dictates no deposit or advance shall exceed the amount of one month’s rent. Among the requirements for units to qualify as seasonal is registration with the town or county government.

“The state passed a number of laws with regard to rent control and stabilization,” deputy town attorney John Burke said at last Tuesday’s work session, explaining the law. “They specifically exempt vacation properties … In order to facilitate that, we need to create a vacation rental registry, which is basically just a list where the owners of these properties can sign up as a vacation home and then we can use that to establish the fact that they can accept more money up front than you could otherwise.”

Town Board member Louisa Evans pointed out that many property owners might collect two months rent at once for a seasonal rental. In order to do that, the property must be registered with the town.

Town Board members suggested advertising the list. Mr. Burke said a notice can be put out but it seems people “in the business of vacation rentals are already onto this.”

Town Board member Greg Doroski said “a number of people in the real estate industry” have already reached out to him about the law and asked if it could be an opportunity for the town to take another look at short-term rental code.

He said some other towns have used rental registries to issue permit numbers that are required to be included in ads. “This would allow us to verify that they’re on this seasonal rent registry but it would also provide a mechanism for enforcement of people that are violating the short-term code,” he said.

Town Board member Jill Doherty pointed out that a policy like that would be very difficult to enforce, especially with advertisements that are posted on social media.

“Although it sounds like a simple thing to do, it’s not a simple thing to enforce,” she said, emphasizing that she’s not saying no, just that “it’s going to be a more difficult discussion.”

Mr. Doroski offered to share his research with the rest of the board and Ms. Doherty suggested he speak with Mr. Burke first about how it might fit with the town code.

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