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Huntington town board may revise its year-old rental law

A sign advertising a house for rent shown

A sign advertising a house for rent shown in Huntington on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. The Huntington Town Board is considering revising a year-old law that requires an annual inspection and registration of residential rental properties that are not owner-occupied. Credit: Ed Betz

The Huntington Town Board is considering revising a year-old law that requires an annual inspection and registration of residential rental properties that are not owner-occupied.

A public hearing will be held to consider a revision making licensed professionals, such as engineers and architects as well as owners, liable for penalties if they make erroneous or false statements about the conditions of a rental.

Also to be discussed is making the rental permit valid for two years instead of one, and establishing a denial and revocation process for the permit.

The hearing is March 8 at 2 p.m. at town hall, 100 Main. St.

“We’re doing what we said we would when the law was enacted,” said town board member Tracey Edwards, sponsor of the resolution. “All along we said this was something that is new, that it has to be evaluated after a year, and I wanted to make sure I made that commitment to do that.”

Edwards said 620 rental permits have been issued since March 2015 and there are 100 pending applications.

Edwards said while the “lion’s share of the people” who require the permits are trying to make sure their rentals are safe, there have been individuals who received a rental permit but “didn’t do the right thing,” meaning they got the permit after which conditions were changed within the rental that would make it non compliant.

She also said town officials have acknowledged that getting through the process takes time.

“So we have to address that,” Edwards said. “When you enact legislation you have to be willing to modify it to make it better.”

John Breslin, an attorney and owner of rental properties in Huntington, opposes the law because it creates a financial burden on landlords for the cost of the permit, legal fees, and making necessary repairs in the event there is an issue getting a rental into compliance.

Those fees are often passed on to the tenant, which increases the difficulty in getting attracting renters, he said, adding that the law is “patently” unfair.

Breslin said a similiar law applies to landlords of owner-occupied accessory apartments, and he agreed with those procedures. But he said those types of restrictions should not apply to non-owner occupied rentals.

“In an accessory apartment you are asking for the right to do something you’re not otherwise entitled to do,” Breslin said, meaning the owner of the property needs town permission in order to rent it.

He said that such a law should not apply to a home that is non-owner occupied because that house is already legal.

Edwards said safety and security of residents are the priorit, and she is proud of the law.

“The bottom line is we have made sure people are safe in the apartments that are being rented and I think homeowners and tenants have learned a lot through the whole process,” Edwards said.

Modifications to be considered by the town:

Making the rental permits valid for two years instead of one

Establishing a denial and revocation process

Making licensed professionals such as engineers and architects, as well as owners, liable for penalties if they make erroneous or false statements about the conditions of a rental

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