How to file eyesore complaints with your town

The trailer on East Montauk Highway in Lindenhurst. The trailer on East Montauk Highway in Lindenhurst. (Feb. 28, 2012) Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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Judy Cartwright Judy Cartwright

Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column ...

 

BABYLON

How does a resident file a complaint about an unmaintained property?

Call 311 or 631-957-TOWN (8696)

At what point does the town step in?

The town code has numerous sections that mandate property be kept in a certain condition and the property owner is responsible for maintaining it, according to town spokesman Tim Ruggeri. If debris, unregistered motor vehicles, overgrown grass or other signs of neglect are present, the town will post a notice on the property and mail the owner a letter requiring remediation within five days.

On the sixth day, the town will inspect the property. If the problem has not been addressed, the town will clean the property and bill the owner. If the bill is not paid, a lien is placed on the property tax bill.

If a property receives several 5-day notices, the owner is labeled a "serial offender" and summonses are issued by the Town's Quality of Life Taskforce."
 

BROOKHAVEN

How does a resident file a complaint about an unmaintained property?

Call the Building Division at 631-451-6333.

At what point does the town step in?

The town will issue a notice of violation if a property is found to have violations of the state property maintenance code or town code regarding neighborhood preservation. The property may also be referred to another department such as waste management for inspection and review, town spokesman Jack Krieger said.

If a building is vacant and unsecure, the town will post a notice that it needs to be secured; if the owner fails to do so, the town will secure it.

The town will generate work orders to clean up litter on unmaintained properties. Overgrown grass on private property will generate a work order to cut the grass for unoccupied homes only, Krieger said.

The town will board the door and window openings of a building that is vacant and open, he said, and in some situations may remove the structure.

The costs plus administrative fees will be charged to the owner as a tax lien.
 

EAST HAMPTON

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How does a resident file a complaint about an unmaintained property?

A complaint form is on the town's website, www.town.east-hampton.ny.us, which can be copied, completed and submitted by mail or email. Residents who visit or call the Ordinance Enforcement Department, 631-324-3858, will be asked to complete the form, according to Betsy Bambrick, director of ordinance enforcement.

At what point does the town step in?

Once a violation is confirmed, the town sends a notice of violation to the homeowner. If the homeowner does not respond or comply, the town files charges with the Justice Court. The town makes decisions on a case-by-case basis about whether to perform a cleanup or other work, Bambrick said. Such work requires a Town Board resolution.

The town relies on sections of the state property and maintenance code for such violations as unsanitary conditions, weeds higher than 10 inches, rodents, inoperative or unregistered motor vehicles (2 or more); structures that aren't maintained or are in disrepair or not structurally sound, lack of protective treatment (such as paint) and accumulation of rubbish or garbage.

The town has placed the cost of property cleanups as a lien on the owner's tax bill, Bambrick said.
 

HEMPSTEAD

How does a resident file a complaint about an unmaintained property?

Call 516-378-2200, the code enforcement division of the town's sanitation department.

At what point does the town step in?

When the town receives a complaint, the building department will investigate. The town then notifies property owners if they are violating town code regarding debris and unmown grass (higher than 8 inches). Five days after an owner receives a written notice of violation, or two days after a mailed notice is returned, the town will remove debris, cut grass and clear excessive weeds and brush, said spokeswoman Susan Trenkle-Pokalsky. When prohibited materials are stored outdoors -- several tires, for example -- a summons can be served that would lead to a court appearance.

The property owner is billed for cleanup work. If the bill is not paid, a lien is placed on the tax bill.
 

HUNTINGTON

How does a resident file a complaint about an unmaintained property?

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Call 631-351-3167 or visit the town's website, http://huntingtonny.gov: Click on Huntington @ Your Service. From the menu, choose Public Safety, Code Enforcement and Security.

At what point does the town step in?

The town investigates complaints such as high grass, litter and debris, property that's not secured and swimming pools with stagnant water, according to spokesman A.J. Carter. The town would first issue a notice of violation to the property owner and, if the owner doesn't take action to address the problems, a summons. The town board can then authorize town employees to clean up the property. Before the town goes onto a property, the town attorney sends out a final 10-day notice.

The property owner is billed for the work done by town employees. If the bill isn't paid, a lien is placed on the owner's property tax bill.

Properties with extensive deterioration fall under the town's new blight ordinance, which gives a property owner 30 days to comply. After that, the property is scheduled for a public hearing to determine if it would be added to the list of blighted properties, an act that would generate an additional penalty -- $2,500 a year for residential properties, $5,000 for commercial properties.
 

ISLIP

How does a resident file a complaint about an unmaintained property?

Call 631-224-5460, the code enforcement's central complaint unit, or 631-224-5380, constituent services

At what point does the town step in?

Sections of town code address property owners' responsibilities for cutting and removing grass, rubbish, weeds and litter, town spokesman Christopher Arlotta said.

If the town receives a complaint concerning a property that is vacant and unsecured, he said, a town investigator may issue a notice of violation or a summons charging violation of town code or the state property maintenance code or fire code.

If a building inspector or fire marshal deems the site unsafe, hazardous or a public nuisance, the town posts a notice on the property and notifies the owner and mortgage holder, directing the removal of the nuisance within five days. If the deadline isn't met, a public hearing will be held to determine what action should be taken.

If, after a hearing, the town board votes that a property presents a fire, safety or health hazard, the town is authorized to take actions such as securing any buildings, cutting and removing overgrown grass and vegetation, and removing litter and debris.

All costs and expenses will be attached as a lien to the property tax bill.
 

NORTH HEMPSTEAD

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How does a resident file a complaint about an unmaintained property?

Call 311 or 516-869-6311

At what point does the town step in?

The town has various local laws that regulate how property is to be maintained, spokesman Collin Nash said, including chapters that apply to maintenance standards for properties, conditions related to properties under construction, and abandoned, unsafe and dangerous buildings and structures.

In response to a complaint or on their own initiative, code enforcement and/or building department inspectors conduct an investigation into an unmaintained property. An inspector will seek to obtain compliance by contacting the owner or other person or entity responsible.

The inspector may serve a notice of violation or issue an appearance ticket. If the owner fails to comply, the town can send a crew to mow the grass and haul away garbage.

The cost of the cleanup will be attached to the owner's property tax bill as a lien.
 

OYSTER BAY

How does a resident file a complaint about an unmaintained property?

Call 516-624-6250

At what point does the town step in?

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When the town is notified that a property hasn't been maintained, the department of planning and development sends an inspector to the site. Town spokeswoman Phyllis Barry said town code includes requirements ranging from proper drainage to keeping fences and other small structures in safe repair. It also addresses keeping yards clean and free of physical hazards; eliminating accumulations of plant growth that are detrimental to health; keeping the grounds, house and other structures free of insects, vermin and rodents; keeping the exterior of the house and other structures maintained in a safe condition and keeping exterior wood surfaces painted or otherwise protected from deterioration, and maintaining the interior floors, walls, ceilings and furnishings in a clean and sanitary manner.

An inspector who finds a property is not meeting those requirements may issue a notice of violation to the property owner of record or, if the property is vacant or not inhabited, mail it. The owner is given 10 days to clean up the property.

If there are extenuating circumstances, the time can be extended. If the property owner does not do the required cleanup, the town will and place a lien for the cost on the property owner's tax bill.
 

RIVERHEAD

How does a resident file a complaint about an unmaintained property?

Call 631-727 3200, ext. 670

At what point does the town step in?

In response to a complaint about overgrown grass or a derelict property, the town would send an inspector. If a violation of town code is found regarding an unsafe or unsecure structure, the town would notify the owner. If the owner doesn't address the problem within 10 days, the town board would hold a hearing before authorizing the town to undertake the work, town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said.

Violations involving tall grass or otherwise unkempt property do not require a hearing, he said. After 10 days, the town board can adopt a resolution to authorize the town to clean up the property.

The town's costs will be billed to the owner as a lien on the property tax bill.
 

SMITHTOWN

How does a resident file a complaint about an unmaintained property?

Call 631-360-7553

At what point does the town step in?

In response to a complaint, the town aims to have an inspector at the property the next day, said Joe Nowotny, the town's public safety-investigations division supervisor. The town then tracks down the owner or mortgage holder and notifies them of the violation.

If the problem isn't addressed in 72 hours, the town sends a crew to cut the grass and otherwise maintain the site, Nowotny said. Town code specifies that the town "may cause grass, brush, solid waste, garbage, rubbish or weeds to be cut, trimmed or removed."

The town can offer an extension, Nowotny said. "It's never cut and dry when you're dealing with these things," he said. "Sometimes you have people who want to do it but can't financially. Their resources have dwindled. They may need another week." Extending the deadline has often paid off, he said: "If people are going to work with us, we'll work with them."

The cost of the cleanup is added to the owner's property tax bill as a lien.
 

SHELTER ISLAND

How does a resident file a complaint about an unmaintained property?

Call 631-749-0772

At what point does the town step in?

If the town determines there's a violation, a registered letter is sent to the property owner. But the town doesn't have much of a problem with eyesore properties, said Building Inspector Chris Tehan.

"We don't measure grass, for instance," he said. "But if the lawn is really overgrown, or there's a big pile of trash and 15 dead cars, we would write a letter."

If it becomes necessary for the town to clean up a property, a tax lien for the cost would be placed on the owner's property tax bill.
 

SOUTHAMPTON

How does a resident file a complaint about an unmaintained property in town?

Call 631-728-1088.

At what point does the town step in?

If a property is deemed unmaintained or unsafe, the town can issue a notice of violation, which requires the property owner to appear in court.

The primary focus is on ensuring the safety of residents, town spokeswoman Jennifer Garvey said. Conditions such as the presence of garbage that is attracting rodents, unsafe structures or dangerous debris can prompt the town to take action, she said.

If a property owner is unresponsive over a period of time to a court-ordered action to bring a property into compliance, the town board can authorize town staff or an outside vendor to perform the cleanup, Garvey said. The cost of the work is added to the property owner's tax bill.
 

SOUTHOLD

How does a resident report an unmaintained property in the town?

Call 631-765-1802 or 631-765-6620

At what point does the town step in?

If the town's code enforcement office determines a problem needs to be addressed, the property owner would be given a notice of violation and ordered to remedy the situation, according to assistant town attorney Lori M. Hulse.

The town recently adopted a new property maintenance code that addresses the "cumulative impacts of property neglect." The law aims to "eliminate safety and health hazards, unsightly conditions, environmental public nuisances, dangerous obstruction to emergency vehicle access, the erosions of property values and the erosion of the quality of life" of nearby residents.

It addresses such issues as stagnant water in ponds, pools and hot tubs; overgrown and unsightly lawns, hedges and trees that create unsafe conditions or blight; garbage and debris; wells and cesspools that aren't securely closed; junked or unregistered vehicles in open view, and graffiti.

If an owner doesn't address a problem, a hearing will be held before the town board determines if the town should repair or secure a structure or remove it. The town can charge for the work by placing a lien on the property tax bill.

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