It’s 300 down, 2,200 to go.
That’s the permit case tally for Babylon Town’s new rental review board, which is nearing its first anniversary, a year that town officials called successful.
"We are very pleased with how it’s been working," said Deputy Town Supervisor Tony Martinez. "It’s still in its infancy but it will get better as the months and years go by."
The seven-member board, which is tasked with reviewing all rental permit applications for houses and buildings, is a first among Long Island municipalities. It was formed in July 2020 but only began hearing cases in December.
All of the nearly 2,500 active rental permits in the town are being reviewed and all landlords must come before the board. After that, renewals do not require a board appearance unless there are complaints about the property, said town spokesman Kevin Bonner.
Under the new rental permit rules, if a landlord does not live near their property, they must appoint a local agent to act on their behalf. They also must post notice of their board hearing to alert neighbors.
A building inspector still comes to a rental property ahead of a permit or renewal, but now in addition to interior health and safety matters, landlords are provided with a list of more aesthetic, outdoor items they must maintain in good condition, such as sidewalks and fencing.
"Some [landlords] have been taken aback, almost like ‘Why us?,’ " said Jorge Rosario, the town’s attorney to the board.
He said he can understand the pushback.
"COVID has caused financial pressure on a lot of people, landlords especially, and now they’re being asked to fix something that’s going to cost them additional money," Rosario said.
Officials said they try to work with property owners and will give them extra time to resolve issues.
"Generally, they all understand that we would like their property to be a showcase when you drive down the block, instead of neglected," said board chairperson Sal Mangano.
Of the 300 cases handled by the board so far, about 60% were found to have had some problem during their inspection, said Bonner. But of those, 90% resolved the issue by the time the case came before the board, he said. Only one permit has been revoked.
Resident feedback on the new board has been mostly positive, officials said. For some, the posted hearing notice is the first time neighbors discover a house is a rental. For others, the hearings have provided an opportunity to air their grievances.
"The folks that have some problem houses in their community, they’re very happy that they have a voice, have somewhere where their concerns will be heard and action taken," Rosario said.
The board schedules about 10 hearings per meeting, which are held two to three times per month.
"Right now we’re comfortable with that number, but we will see if we can increase it to make sure that we get through all the properties," Martinez said. "But at the end of the day, every property will have a public hearing."
BABYLON TOWN RENTAL REVIEW BOARD
The chairperson is paid $11,000 annually and each member has a salary of $9,000 annually
Sal Mangano Chairperson
Kelly Medwig Member
Mike Murray Member
Karla Bryant Member
Vernon Shelton Member
Mark Smith Member
Marie Iodice Member
Diana Mallia is 1st alternate to the board; Katie Reilly is secretary to the board; and Jorge Rosario is attorney to the board. Mallia and Reilly are paid $350 per meeting, and Rosario receives no stipend for his work. None of the three has voting power except Mallia, if she is standing in for an absent board member.