Officers are looking to enforce a different code this summer in Southampton.
Public Safety and Emergency Management Administrator Steven Troyd approached the Southampton Town Board January 24 with proposed changes to yearly and seasonal rental regulations. Major changes he asked the board to consider include eliminating a requirement that a landlord update tenants’ identities, removing the need for a garbage carter contract, disregarding the four-car parking limit between 1 AM and 6 AM, and making a two-year rental permit a flat $200 fee.
Those obtaining seasonal permits to rent their homes between May 1 and September 30 would need a separate permit apart from the rental permit, allowing use of a rental property for periods no less than seven days. No guests for those occupying a home with a seasonal rental permit would be permitted between 1 AM and 6 AM, and name and contact information of a person who would respond within an hour to correct any code violation must be provided to the Code Enforcement Department, and sent by certified mail to neighbors.
“We need to compromise somehow so we can better monitor and enforce codes,” Troyd said. “We also need leverage when enforcing these codes to ensure a homeowner is staying on top of some of the issues we’re facing — like saying that there’s a risk a seasonal rental owner takes when choosing not to follow the code.”
Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera had some trouble with what she called some “major changes.” She cited Troyd’s presentation as a reason to keep the requirement for a garbage hauler’s contract. According to his department, Southampton Town handed out 914 notices of violation in 2018, 247 of them in Hampton Bays, 112 in Flanders and 100 in North Sea. In Hampton Bays there were 144 property maintenance charges, 64 in Flanders, 37 in Riverside, 36 in Bridgehampton, 23 in Shinnecock Hills, and 17 in Water Mill. Notices of violation for litter and dumping were also high across the hamlets.
“Property maintenance is one of the highest violations,” she said. “Keeping the carter contract is trying to be proactive and get in front of the issue.”
Preston Scalera also did not agree with disseminating homeowner contact information to neighbors. Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said partiers renting could be a real problem for short-term rentals, and homeowners may prefer a neighbor call to discuss a problem instead of having the neighbor contact the town.
Preston Scalera saw it differently. “We don’t want to pit neighbor against neighbor,” she said.
Other changes Troyd would like to see approved were for safety issues, with which the board agreed. This includes expanding the definition of a rental property to include commercial properties, condominiums, co-ops, and accessory apartments.
“This is very important, because you have apartments above commercial establishments, maybe a cooking establishment, and it’s very important to make sure that the rental is safe and that they’re being inspected,” Troyd said. “Right now, the building only gets a commercial inspection, so we really don’t know what’s going on above.”
He said he’d divide the inspection process with the town fire marshal, who already does the commercial code inspections. As for accessory apartments, the building department hands out accessory apartment permits, ensuring the space is built properly, and the public safety department will provide rental permits, which last for two years.
Troyd also cited pool violations across the town. Last year, there were 17 notices of violations in Water Mill, a popular hamlet for summer rentals, 15 in Hampton Bays, 14 in Bridgehampton, eight in Shinnecock Hills, and three in Remsenburg, Speonk, and Riverside.
“It sounds like a small thing, but the results could be tragic,” Troyd said, asking the board to set up an advisory campaign prior to the summer season informing residents they should have a self-closing gate surrounding their pool with an alarm. “It’s my personal peeve. I still don’t understand why we don’t have gates and alarms,” he said.
To ensure renters remain safe, he also proposed that a landlord be required to show proof that he or she is under contract with a pool service, which would clean the pool and maintain chemical levels.
Southampton Online Solutions, the town’s online complaint system that was launched a year-and-a-half ago, logged more than 2000 complaints. There were 1284 in 2018 and just 300 when Troyd first took office in August 2017. While he said the SOS system has increased workload and heightened the number of properties cited for violations, it’s also made work easier, with a log and tracking system for complaints, which are assigned a number and a color on a map so the progress in solving the complaint can be tracked. Red means a complaint has been logged, yellow that it is under review, and green that it has been addressed. By December, more than 1700 had been marked green, he said.
Town officials asked Troyd to come back to the next work session meeting, January 31 at 10 AM, to go over his proposals in more detail and work together to come up with changes both parties are happy with.