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Long IslandPolitics

Islip hikes landlord fines for illegal rentals

The Town of Islip, which has faced criticism recently for slow enforcement of illegal rentals, is taking aim at landlords with onerous new penalties, including jail time of up to a year or a fine as high as $10,000 for third-time offenders.

The penalties, adopted unanimously by the town board this week, are among the highest on Long Island: for the first offense, a fine as high as $2,500; for the second, as high as $5,000.

Islip's matches Babylon's highest penalty.

Huntington's code calls for a fine as high as $15,000 but no jail time.

At a public hearing Tuesday before the board voted, Peter and Carol Schwasnick, who have named Islip Town in a lawsuit against their Oakdale neighbor, Assemb. Ginny Fields, chastised officials for not forcing Fields to put her illegal rental properties in compliance more quickly.

Fields was cited in 2007 for illegally renting two cottages. The town rejected her application to modify them and bring them up to code and she failed to file an appeal before her application expired last year, the town said.

Records obtained by Newsday show that she submitted the final documents for the application earlier this month. Fields' attorney, Eliot Bloom of Mineola, said the application took so long because it required new surveys, historic titles and affidavits.

The zoning board of appeals has not yet ruled on the application.

Islip Town also has come under fire for an illegal multifamily home in Brentwood where residents have gone to the hospital twice with carbon monoxide poisoning.

A full year after the town first cited the property owner for illegal apartments and fire code violations, carbon monoxide levels spiked again.

Town officials said the court process, which can stretch for several months, contributed to the delay in forcing the landlord to eliminate the illegal apartments.

Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan said the town's new penalties will make illegal apartments less profitable.

"You have to look at how much money these guys are able to get by breaking the law," he said. "I have to attack on the money side."

Previously, the town code limited the penalty for a third offense to $1,500 or up to six months in jail.

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