The landlord of an East Hampton house, who along with nearly a dozen of her tenants faces multiple charges — including overcrowding and unsafe conditions and violating the town’s new rental registry law — said Monday that she had no idea so many people were living in the single-family home.
Leslie Cooper, of Amityville, talked about the case outside East Hampton Town Justice Court following her arraignment and those of the other nine defendants.
All entered not guilty pleas before Judge Lisa Rana and were given dates of either July 11 or July 25 for their cases to be heard.
Only one defendant, Moncayo Arnulfo Rivera, 27, who was also arrested on an outstanding warrant on charges of driving while intoxicated and was charged additionally with false impersonation for allegedly initially providing a fake name to police, did not come to court.
There was no explanation given for Rivera’s absence.
Rana advised the defendants, a few of whom still live in the house, to hire attorneys. Cooper was the only one with counsel.
“These are very serious charges,” Rana warned. “If you’re found guilty they could have a detrimental effect on your life.”
The law requires absentee landlords to register information with the town about their properties and the number of tenants living there. Property owners receive a rental registry number that officials use to track rentals.
Authorities said Cooper’s house at 105 Springs Fireplace Rd. was not registered and was being illegally occupied by nine adults and five children.
Cooper offered no explanation for failing to register, but she said she thought she was renting to a mother with one child, and the mother’s “boyfriend or husband.” She said she didn’t know anyone else was living at the house.
Other charges against Cooper and the adult tenants include failure to have a carbon monoxide detector, change of use or type of occupancy, no building permit or certificate of occupancy and excessive vehicles in a rental.
One of the tenants, Jaimo Uzhca Namina, 31, was also charged with criminal contempt for violating an order of protection.
The other adult tenants charged were Carmen Rocio Yamba Tenezaca, 30; Wilson Guillca-Satian, 30; Melida Yamba Tenezaca, 33; Jose Donaire, 40; Angel Uzhca, 32; Angel Maza-Namina, 32; and Rafeal Felix Llauri, 23.
Outside of court, Cooper’s attorney, Kieran Pape Murphree, said Cooper had received an offer from the prosecutor to dismiss seven of the 17 charges against her if there were no further violations and she paid a fine of $10,000.
Murphree said Cooper intends to bring the house into compliance.
Rental registry violators are subject to fines of $3,000 to $15,000 and up to 6 months in jail, or both.
“This is costing me a fortune,” Cooper said.