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Huntington’s rental registry law under fire from landlords

Huntington landlords object to the town's new rental

Huntington landlords object to the town's new rental registry law. Credit: Ralf Kleemann

A Huntington law requiring rental units to be inspected and the owner to obtain a permit has angered landlords to the point of considering legal options, they said.

The permit, which is valid for two years, certifies that the home has been inspected by either an independent state-certified inspector, a Town of Huntington public safety inspector or a licensed engineer. The law requiring the inspection and permits was approved in January 2015 and revised at the May 10 town board meeting.

The changes include making the rental permit valid for two years instead of one. No rental registration would be required for a two-family home in which one of the units is owner-occupied.

The inspections ensure that the property is in compliance with Huntington town code, officials have said.

About 100 property owners who have rental homes in the town are in discussions with an attorney about challenging the law as unconstitutional as a violation of privacy.

“We need to get this . . . unconstitutional permit law repealed,” said Jean Mamakos, a landlord for 35 years and a Huntington resident since 1975. Opponents of the law say it wastes landlords’ time as well as costs them more in permit fees.

Town board member Tracey Edwards, author of the law, said the focus is absentee landlords. She said if a landlord is living in the house, they are more likely to make sure the property is safe for tenants.

“It’s for tenant and first responder safety and neighborhood preservation,” Edwards said. A similar law was enacted in February in East Hampton Town and went into effect this month.

A similar law passed by the City of Schenectady was upheld in the Supreme Court Appellate Division Third Department in 2014 and by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2015.

For residents in communities with a high percentage of rentals, the law is seen as an effort to maintain neighborhoods and quality of life, and help homeowners retain the equity in their homes they have spent decades building.

“It has some flaws,” said Robert Caupain, who has lived in his Huntington home for 46 years. “But it’s a step. If the landlords were living up to the standards and codes of the town, why would they fight this? They are not invested in the communities except to make money.”

Huntington resident Joe Fusaro, who has been a landlord in the town for more than 30 years, said if the town wants to take on “bad” landlords, the best way to handle it would be to focus on the violators. Just because other municipalities have laws on rental units doesn’t mean Huntington needs one, he said.

“It’s government intrusion and overreaching,” Fusaro said. “When is enough? It’s another tax.”

The permit costs $475. New application fees are $75 and $25 for a renewal.

Huntington Rental Registration Law

n The town has issued 775 rental registration permits since the law went into effect.

n 135 applications are pending.

n The permit, good for two years, costs $475

n The fee for a new application is $75; for a renewal it’s $25.

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