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Rental Registry Shenanigans

Thu, 08/11/2022 - 12:07

East Hampton Town’s code governing its rental registry may be modified to address updates that an assistant town attorney called “pretty obviously the product of forgery or falsified information.”

The registry was introduced in 2016 in an effort to reduce illegal group rentals, excessive turnover, and otherwise disruptive practices that impact neighbors’ quality of life. Homeowners who rent out a house are required to register it with the town’s building department by filing a registration form, which must be deemed complete by the principal building inspector, Ann Glennon. They must also obtain a rental registry number.

Should there be a change in conditions, such as a change in tenants, rental period or term, commencement of a new rental period or term, number of tenants, or number of bedrooms, then the homeowner must file a rental registration update.

Addressing the town board on Tuesday, David McMaster said that the building and ordinance enforcement departments “have run into a number of issues” regarding forged documents or falsified information. This could happen, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said, when one family member owns a property but another family member obtains a registry number and rents it out.

Indeed, there are “a number of current cases in Justice Court” in which property owners claim that the property is rented without their permission or authority, Ms. McMaster said. “Someone close to them has filed a rental registry purporting to show authority to rent the property, and they don’t actually have it.” As presently written, the code has no way to revoke a rental registry number in such a scenario, which, he said, “is problematic.”

He circulated proposed wording to be added to the code. “A rental registry issued pursuant to this chapter may be revoked, in a written determination by the Principal Building Inspector that: (1) The rental registry application was forged and/or fraudulent; or (2) The property does not have a current certificate of occupancy. An open building permit shall not be the basis for revocation of a rental registry under this section.”

When a building permit is “open,” the property does not technically have a valid certificate of occupancy, Mr. McMaster explained, but the second clause in the proposed addition to the code addresses that scenario. “That refers to a property that’s never had a valid certificate of occupancy,” he said.

The board would have to hold a public hearing before amending the code. Its wording could change based on discussions with Ms. Glennon, Mr. McMaster said, pledging to keep the board apprised of any such changes.

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