The Town of Huntington has prevailed in a federal lawsuit filed by a coalition of landlords who opposed a law requiring permits and inspections for non-owner-occupied rental units.
The group, Citizens for Fair Housing, Inc., alleged in its lawsuit the rental registration law violates landlords’ constitutional rights and the permit fees create a burden for rental property owners.
U.S. District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein on July 5 rejected those claims and dismissed the lawsuit “for failure to state a claim for relief.”
The suit was filed Oct. 17 in federal court in Central Islip. The coalition represents up to 100 landlords but the costs of the lawsuit are being paid by about 20 of them, said Huntington landlord Jean Mamakos, the secretary of the coalition and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. She said she didn’t know what was next.
“We haven’t met with our lawyers yet to discuss what our options are,” Mamakos said of the dismissal. “It’s very sad what has gone down so far. The court was supposed to respond within 90 days and it didn’t, now they just responded and it wasn’t a positive for us.”
Huntington Town Board member Tracey Edwards, who sponsored the rental registration law, said the decision affirms that absentee landlords have an obligation to ensure apartments are safe for tenants, emergency personnel, homeowners and the preservation of their neighborhoods, and that the legislation was not an attempt to violate a landlord’s constitutional rights.
“I’m glad the court agreed that it’s reasonable to hold absentee landlords to the same safety standards as owner-occupied landlords,” Edwards said. “We modified our original legislation based on feedback by the real estate community and I would be more than willing to sit down with the plaintiffs on their issues.”
Under the law, which became effective in January 2015 and was revised in May 2016, landlords must obtain a permit for the rental property, which is valid for two years. The permit certifies that the home has been examined by an independent state-certified inspector, a Town of Huntington public-safety inspector or a licensed engineer. The permit costs $475.
The requirements apply to non-owner-occupied rental housing units. Property owners with accessory apartments at their residence were already covered by similar regulations.
Since the law took effect, the town has issued 1,150 rental permits, with another 200 pending, officials said.