Southampton raises fines on unlawful house rentals

Southampton Town Hall is shown. Southampton Town Hall is shown. Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

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Southampton Town has responded to the problem of short-term house rentals filled with tenants gone wild by upping fines for repeat offenders of local rental laws to as much as $30,000.

Some landlords have factored into the cost of doing business the town's previous $8,000 cap on fines for violations like overcrowding or allowing weekend rentals, town officials said, and have continued to violate the town's rules.

The new law makes a first offense punishable by a fine between $3,000 and $15,000. Second offenses within 18 months are punishable by a fine between $8,000 and $30,000.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst pointed to a "party house ring" of nearly a dozen houses last year, where "literally busloads of mostly minors" were brought into houses for post-prom parties. Some of these houses, she said, had "become a menace to neighborhoods and their quality of life."

Landlords in other parts of town stack low-income families, many of whom don't speak English, into unsafe living conditions, she said. Rentals in tonier parts can fetch tens of thousands of dollars a week during summer.

But the shortest-term rentals, easy to find online, are also illegal under town code. Houses must be rented for at least 14 days, town attorney Tiffany Scarlato said.

Year-round residents said at a town board meeting Tuesday night that the only way many can afford to live in the Hamptons is by renting out their homes in the summer. "It's part of the economy here," Throne-Holst acknowledged, but "there are property owners who abuse that privilege."

The new fines were passed unanimously by the town board. Owners without a rental permit can be subject to a $150 fine.

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