East Hampton Town Gets Wise to Short-Term Rentals

Air BNB has 873 listings for short-term rentals in Montauk this week.
Air BNB has 94 listings for short-term rentals in Montauk this week.

Short-term rentals and share houses are nothing new to the Hamptons, but the past couple years, with the help of websites devoted to connecting visitors with people who want to rent out rooms in their house short-term, they’ve become more prevalent than ever before.

East Hampton Town is facing an especially severe case of rental overload in Montauk, which has become jam-packed with social media-savvy people in recent summers who know how to find a place to stay on the cheap online.

AirBNB, one of the most well-known online rental sites, boasted more than 90 listings in Montauk this week.

East Hampton is looking to create a rental registry that town board members are hoping will quell the overload of short term rentals, known in the town code as “excessive turnover,” which is defined as the rental of a residential property for a daily, weekly or two-week rental basis on three or more occasions during any six month period.

Assistant Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski presented the first draft of the town’s proposed rental registry law to the town board at a work session Aug. 19. If it meets the board’s approval, he said, he hopes to have it go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, the start of next year’s rental season.

The registry wouldn’t change the existing definition of excessive turnover in the town code, but will instead be used as a data collection tool to determine how landlords are renting their property, said Mr. Sendlenski.

The town’s code enforcement department recently began accepting complaints online, and had received 47 complaints this year about potential excessive turnover of houses in town, said Code Enforcement Director Betsy Bambrink at a work session in early August.

Landlords would fill out a form in the building inspector’s office, pay a fee, and have their property assigned a rental registration number, which would have to be used in advertisements when the property is listed for rent.

The length of the lease once a tenant is found would also have to be provided to the building inspector, who would maintain the registry’s records.

In order to ensure landlords comply with the registry, Mr. Sendlenski said they would not be able to collect back rent from their tenents in East Hampton Justice Court.

Mr. Sendlenski said the town has a similar provision that doesn’t allow contractors who don’t have an East Hampton home improvement license to collect on work they haven’t been paid for in town justice court .

He said a first violation of the terms of the rental registry would be a misdemeanor, which could be pled down to a violation, but a second violation would carry a much higher fine and would be an unclassified misdemeanor, which couldn’t be pled down.

The proposed law would also allow the town to ask judges to tie the fine to the amount of rent received by the landlords, since there’s a vast amount of variation in the amount of a fine that would keep landlords who don’t comply with the code from violating the rules of the registry again.

“A $1,500 fine or even a $15,000 fine might not be a deterrence,” he said. “This should serve as a true deterrent to anyone who would seek to violate.”

Councilman Fred Overton said he’s not sure if there should be a re-application fee when tenants renew existing leases, and added that he’d like to put together a committee to discuss the registry.

Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said he believed the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee is very interested in creating the rental registry.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell suggested the town hold an informational meeting with the public and circulate the proposed law to community groups for input.

More Reports Due Soon

Also at the Aug. 19 work session, Mr. Cantwell said the Army Corps of Engineers’ final report on their proposed work to shore up downtown Montauk is due “in the next week or so.” He plans to hold a public discussion on the report when it is available.

He added that the town’s wastewater management plan is almost available for public comment, and scientists and town workers are working on a plan of action for algae blooms in Georgica Pond and other East Hampton waterways.

Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said the East Hampton Airport has billed $300,000 more this year than last in landing fees, giving credence to complaints about increased aircraft noise en route to the airport this summer.

She added that Showtime is coming back to East Hampton Sept. 8 to shoot scenes from the new show “The Affair” for one or two weeks. The town board will have more details at their Sept. 2 work session.

Councilman Van Scoyoc said the construction and demolition debris section of the town waste transfer station on Springs-Fireplace Road is open again, after it was briefly closed by the state DEC.

Councilman Fred Overton said a group of community members working on the definition of light duty trucks in Springs has made some progress, has agreed to disagree on some issues, and will hold another meeting soon.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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