The landlords of two adjoining rental properties in Riverside, each originally facing 85 code violations following a raid of their overcrowded homes last November, have pleaded guilty this week to reduced charges, according to Southampton Town officials.
Andrew Boico and Michael Wilcox pleaded guilty on April 14 to three misdemeanors and 18 violations apiece, town officials said. Both men were fined $7,500 and sentenced to 50 hours of community service each.
Additionally, Southampton Town Justice Edward D. Burke ordered the defendants to bring the properties, located on 78-82 Old Quogue Road in Riverside, up to code within six months. Justice Burke’s ruling also allows for five unannounced inspections of the properties over the next year by code enforcement officers.
Linda Deitrich, a Riverhead-based attorney representing both Mr. Boico and Mr. Wilcox, could not be reached for comment.
Town Supervisor Linda Kabot said that her administration has no tolerance for landlords who disobey the town code and endanger the public by allowing tenants to reside in hazardous conditions.
“These fines send a strong message that we will be steadfast in our prosecution to protect our citizens and neighborhoods from profiteering landlords,” she said.
Ms. Kabot said the cases were developed through the coordinated efforts of Town Investigator David Betts and his staff of code enforcement officers who performed surveillance on the properties and established probable cause for ascertaining a search warrant.
According to the Town Investigator’s office, the violations ranged from a lack of smoke detectors to barbecue grills being used to heat the interior of the homes, which included two trailers and two single-family homes. Adding to the hazard, Mr. Betts noted that the barbecue grills were resting on plastic chairs and that flammable material, such as blankets, were resting against other heating units.
Other violations include converting closets into bedrooms and the health risk posed by an overflowing septic tank. Mr. Betts said that a functioning staircase in one house was unsound and near collapse. According to Mr. Betts, 39 tenants were on the premises but that more had been living on the property when the search warrant was executed last November.
“It’s hard to give an accurate number because some of the residents were at work,” Mr. Betts said.
Town Councilman Dan Russo, the code enforcement liaison to the Town Board, said the case involving Mr. Boico and Mr. Wilcox exemplified the sort of violations the town was most interested in addressing. “These were some of the most egregious offenses,” Mr. Russo said. “And our goal is to go after people who are putting lives in danger.”
Mr. Russo said the town had no desire to be heavy-handed with minor violations, but was determined to pursue unscrupulous landlords who create hazards to both their tenants and the general public.
Earlier this month, Supreme Court Justice Gary Weber slapped temporary restraining orders on four homes on North Sea Road in North Sea that were shut down by the town in early March due to overcrowding. These dwellings had been the focus of search warrants and, upon inspection, the town discovered multiple safety violations.
By the justice’s action, the court basically agreed that conditions in the rental homes presented imminent risks to the lives of the tenants—a position taken by the town. Since they were shuttered, the homes have been vacant and the town is requiring that the owners restore the houses to acceptable conditions before they can be reoccupied.
Mr. Russo said the court’s action demonstrates the town’s seriousness in enforcing its code and sends a clear message to unethical landlords.