The East Hampton Town Board’s proposed rental registry law caused quite the stir at a Springs Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Monday night.
The law, if adopted, would require owners of rental properties to register with the town’s Building Department and obtain a rental registration number. The goal is to cut down on crowding and excessive turnover from short-term rentals and make it easier for code enforcement officers to investigate abuse.
CAC members and residents were split on Monday night, not only on the details of the law, but on the purpose of the law and whether to have such a law at all.
Some, eager to have a solution to the constant influx of new renters or multi-family uses in single-family homes, said they see the law as a good step forward, while others said they believe the law infringes on constitutional rights and privacy.
“Stay out of my house unless you want to rent it,” said Springs resident Martin Drew. “Stay off my property and stay out of my house.”
CAC member David Buda, who described himself as an “ex-lawyer,” said that the law is very similar to Southampton Town’s rental registry, noting that East Hampton Assistant Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski also wrote Southampton’s law when he worked for that municipality.
Under the law, homeowners would register their property by filling out a form and providing an affidavit about the number of people they will rent to, the number of bedrooms and the square footage of each bedroom, the proposed rental period and if there was a valid certificate of occupancy. They would have to acknowledge that there would be refuse removal weekly for the entirety of the rental period. Once the form was completed, the homeowner would be given a rental registration number that would be listed in any rental advertisements for the property.
If anything were to change, such as when a new tenant came in, or the lease expired or was renewed, the homeowner would be required to file again with the registry.
Any information the town collected could be used as “presumptive evidence” of a rental that has over-occupancy or a multi-family occupancy, which would help the town if it were attempting to prosecute someone who abused the system.
Anyone failing to register would face violations, which could escalate to a misdemeanor criminal charge with possible fines and imprisonment.
Tina Piette, a homeowner and an attorney, said the newly-crafted legislation was missing a defined purpose and that without knowing the purpose it would be pointless to debate the law.
“Everybody who owns a home here should understand how this affects them, what it means and what is the purpose,” she said. “What I am going to say to this committee is that we can talk, talk, talk … I have a lot to say about the law, but until I see [the purpose] I don’t see the need.”
Town Councilman and CAC liaison Fred Overton was running late and ultimately missed the meeting, which “hampered” the conversation, according to CAC Chairwoman Loring Bolger. Mr. Overton was unable to explain the law on behalf of the Town Board or take back discussion points to his fellow board members.
Many in attendance at the meeting said that the purpose of the law was obvious and that discussions and delays must stop.
“We have waited and waited and waited and waited,” said Rita Wasserman. “Our taxes are going up. Our community is changing minute by minute. How long do we have to wait for something to happen?”
Julie Evans Brumm from the Montauk CAC sat in on the meeting and said that people in Springs were just as divided as people in Montauk.
“Montauk and Springs are similar in a lot of ways and I hope we can come together as one,” she said, adding that she’d like the two groups to get together to chat about the law.
Ms. Bolger said the two groups would try to come together for discussions, given that both hamlets have had difficulties with rental properties.
“The issue affects both hamlets probably more than any other, but in somewhat different ways,” Ms. Bolger said. “Montauk is more probably with seasonal rentals and we seem to have year-round rentals and overcrowding. But it’s all part of the same thing. It would be a very strong statement to the Town Board if both communities could agree on either supporting portions of the legislation or say they don’t want any part of it whatsoever.”
The Springs CAC is expected to discuss the legislation again in October. Ms. Bolger said that Mr. Overton will not be at the October 27 meeting, but that another Town Board member would likely attend in his place.