The Southold Town Board unanimously approved approved a new rental permit code at its Dec. 18 meeting, requiring landlords to have a certificate of occupancy, meet safety requirements and be issued a rental permit before they can rent out their property.

The new code takes effect immediately, but the town will not enforce it until August of 2019.

The code permits the Town Board to set the rental permit fee by resolution, which would be done at the board’s annual reorganization meeting, but board members have said they expect to set the initial permit fee at $100. Permits will be valid for two years from the date of issuance.

Applications are expected to be processed by the town’s code enforcement office. To be eligible for a permit, the premises must have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and a valid certificate of occupancy or certificate of existing use. An inspection report, prepared by either the code enforcement officer or a professional engineer, architect or home inspector hired by the landlord, must accompany the application. 

Landlords hiring their own inspector must make sure that inspector has New York State Uniform Fire Prevention Code certification.

Landlords must include their own address and contact information, information about the number of rooms in the dwelling to be rented, and the maximum number of people they expect to rent to in their application.

Once enforcement begins next August, the town will be able to issue fines beginning at $500, up to $5,000 for a first offense against any section of the code, and fines of $1,000 to $10,000 for additional offenses.

The town board has been considering this law, in some form, for more than two years, and has held several contentious public hearings as it was pared back over the past year.

“The original legislation was overly prescribed. This is stripped down to its most basic, straightforward provisions,” said Town Supervisor Scott Russell before casting his vote in favor of the new law. “I had wrestled with it. There were some reservations I had in supporting it.”

“[Landlords] can get an inspection from an outside engineer,” he added. “This addresses longtime health and safety issues, with giving fire marshals access and ensuring properties are safe. We’ve loosened the code over the past few years and made accessory apartments easier to get. There’s an attendant necessity to strengthen this.”

Councilwoman Jill Doherty, who has been helping to craft the code to ensure it meets fire safety codes, said “this has been a struggle for all of us for years. I don’t like any time we have to make more codes.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” said East Marion resident Anne Murray, who spoke at the public comment period of the Dec. 18 meeting. “I urge the town to do this because we need safe housing for everyone.”

The town’s code enforcement office can be reached at 631.765.1939 and the full text of the legislation is online here.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she 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

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