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East Hampton rental registry sessions draw fewer landlords

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell talks to

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell talks to those gathered at a workshop about the town's new rental registry law, held at Town Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The first workshops for property owners to learn about East Hampton Town’s controversial new rental registry law were held Wednesday, with the numbers of sign-ups below those of Realtors who attended last week’s meetings.

Colleen Reynolds, assistant to Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, said fewer than half of the 75 people at Wednesday’s 1 p.m. session were landlords. Of the attendees, 46 were Realtors. The balance began to shift at the remaining workshops. At the 3 p.m. session, only 30 of the 75 attendees were Realtors; and for the 5 p.m. session, which had 54 registrants, just eight were Realtors.

Two recent workshops for Realtors were each filled beyond the 70-person capacity. Wednesday’s sessions for landlords did not produce similar results and were opened to Realtors who could not attend those held last week.

Some property owners questioned the need for the law, which applies to absentee landlords and requires them to provide the town with the number of bedrooms and occupants in a house, and proof of certain state maintenance requirements.

“I don’t know why we have it,” Montauk resident Tom Dunfee said of the measure as he left the 1 p.m. session in Town Hall’s main meeting room. For the past 20 years during the summer, he said he has rented out a two-family home in Montauk. “All they’re doing is enforcing the previous zoning code and collecting $100 for it.”

Dunfee was referring to the $100 fee applicants have to pay for a registry with a number that town officials will use to track information about leased properties.

“It’s not being addressed where people are renting nightly like a motel; we’ve talked to people who have rented sofas in people’s houses,” Dunfee said. “The problem is in Montauk we’ve been overrun with these young people, and there’s been more drunkenness on the beach and in town. I don’t see how any of this is being addressed.”

Officials have said the law will help them gain control over illegal shared houses that attract young disruptive visitors to summer resort areas such as Montauk.

Dunfee said the measure is unenforceable because it relies on neighbors to alert the town when they see problems, but said he intends to comply with the law.

Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski told attendees he would not reveal information about how the law will be enforced.

Montauk resident Daniel Briganti said he attended the 1 p.m. workshop so he could determine whether something can be done about the owners of a house across the street from his “constantly turning over tenants.”

Nadia Garcia said she was there to help decide whether to sell or rent out her East Hampton town house. If she decides to rent, she said, “I want to be in compliance. This should have happened sooner because there have been a lot of code violations.”

Applications for the rental registry will be available beginning Feb. 1, but enforcement will not begin until May 1.

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