By Mara Certic
For the second time in a year, the East Hampton Town Board is considering a new draft of a rental registry law, which would require all those who rent out their entire homes for any period of time to register with the town and pay a small fee every two years.
The town has gone back and forth with the public and assistant town attorney Michael Sendlenski for the past year, on whether or not to implement a rental registry, which some hope would facilitate code enforcement. When the idea of a rental registration gained some traction late last year, several members of the community spoke out against it and the plans were abandoned.
However, since Montauk residents were this year again troubled by illegal rentals board has brought the registry back to the table, with some changes outlined by Mr. Sendlenski.
Even before Mr. Sendlenski had a chance to explain the new law, which would require all those who intend to rent their houses first register with the town, residents spoke up both in support of and against the law.
While many several people said it would restore some order to an out-of-control rental market, and begin to tackle sharehouses and other illegal rental properties, others said it would be an invasion, and wouldn’t succeed in fixing any of the rental-related issues in the town.
The law, Mr. Sendlenski said, is not very intrusive at all, and hasn’t changed the law of legal renting. In East Hampton, homeowners may only rent out their home for a period of 14 days or less twice within a six-month period.
The current proposal was written to be less onerous than the one the town board considered last fall. Under this proposal, to get a rental registration number—would have to be used in all advertisements–the owner would first be required to submit paperwork including a notarized rental property registration form, a notarized rental property inspection checklist, a copy of the latest certificate of occupancy and the filing fee—which has yet to be determined. The checklist can either be completed by the homeowner, or by an architect or engineer.
The rental property registration form, Mr. Sendlenski said, will include information about the property owner (name, physical address, mailing address, phone number), as well as information about the agent, if applicable, and general information about the house, such as the size and number of bedrooms. The form does require some tenant information—but Mr. Sendlenski said only the number of tenants and the length of the stay will have to be included on the form.
The law is intended to provide data that can be cross-referenced to complaints and quality of life concerns, and also act as a tool to track short-term rentals advertised online. In addition, it will give the consumer the assurance that the property has been registered and is in accordance with town law.
Mr. Sendlenski added that landlords who will still be living in a part of the house they intend to rent will be exempt from registering their properties. Councilwoman Sylvia Overby announced on Tuesday morning that the town will begin to discuss the idea of adding affordable accessory apartments to single-family homes during a meeting next week.
The topic of affordable housing came up several times during the public portion of Tuesday morning’s work session, not to comment on the board’s decision last week to move forward with an affordable housing project in Amagansett, but to address the board about the dire need for affordable housing, specifically in Wainscott.
An affordable housing project slated to create between 46 and 49 new units on a 5-acre development in Wainscott fell by the wayside when members of the Wainscott School District grew concerned that the new residents would overwhelm the one-roomed schoolhouse.
“There is a possibility of affordable housing in Wainscott, we haven’t ruled that out at all,” Councilman Peter van Scoyoc said, explaining that the last proposal was from a private organization, not the town’s housing authority.
“We have not received another proposal back from this specific organization, we have the ability to provide affordable housing through the town at this site, we’re working with another entity,” he said.
“I think we all recognize the importance of affordable housing in the town and the importance of having every hamlet provide because we need a balanced community.”
“I’ve seen that school expand. I’ve seen a building go up when there weren’t enough kids for the small building. I’ve seen advertisements looking for more students,” said Tinka Topping, a Sagaponack resident who celebrated her 91st birthday on Tuesday by attending the meeting with her family. “The issue of the school is a false issue,” she said.
“As far as I’m concerned, the more diversity there is in our community now – the better,” she said.
“I don’t know that the Wainscott proposal is going to go forward or not,” said Supervisor Larry Cantwell. “I do know that we just approved a proposal in Amagansett, and we have another proposal that we approved another in East Hampton and we’re moving forward with affordable housing in a number of areas because we agree it’s very important.”
Just days before on Thursday, October 1, the town board unanimously agreed to guarantee bonds up to $4 million to be borrowed by the town Housing Authority to purchase a 4.6-acre lot in Amagansett for an affordable housing project.