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Southampton Town loosens rental restrictions for some events

Next year's U.S. Open golf tournament at Shinnecock

Next year's U.S. Open golf tournament at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, shown on Oct. 4, 2017, prompted Southampton town officials to reconsider short-term rental restrictions. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Southampton Town visitors could have an easier time finding places to rent during some special events under new legislation passed Tuesday.

The law, approved unanimously by the town board, allows homeowners to rent out their residences during designated events for less than the two-week minimum required by town code. The event dates that receive rental waivers will need to be voted on by the board.

Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the June 2018 U.S. Open golf tournament at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club prompted him to re-examine the short-term rental restrictions.

“If we don’t put something like this in place and hundreds of people rent their homes for the U.S. Open, we’re basically making criminals out of them,” he told a crowd of about 50 residents at the meeting. “We would be ignoring the obvious.”

Homeowners must still obtain rental permits, which cost about $200, and follow other existing rules, including limiting rentals to no more than four unrelated people.

Airbnb data shows property owners are flouting the minimum stay rule. In the last year, 98 percent of Southampton Town stays that were brokered through the site were for less than 14 days, company officials said in a statement. Typical hosts rented out their spaces for about two nights a month.

In a letter to the town board, an Airbnb representative supported the legislation while calling for reducing the two-week minimum stay overall.

“The 14-day minimum excludes the vast majority of would-be travelers who have neither the time nor the resources to commit to a two-week stay,” Andrew Kalloch who works in the company’s public policy department, wrote in the letter.

Jenice Delano, a Bridgehampton resident and real estate saleswoman with Saunders & Associates, said she believes the new law will be “helpful” but also urged the board to modify the town’s rental code. She said some residents struggle to obtain rental permits because the process can lead to expensive home repairs that are required to comply with building code.

“It’s caused a huge cutback in the inventory available for rent, for the cheaper homes particularly,” she said. “I really appreciate you at least taking a look.”

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