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Hempstead Town votes to ban short-term rentals

The Hempstead Town Board voted Tuesday to ban short-term rentals in the town’s unincorporated areas, becoming one of Long Island’s latest municipalities to restrict the industry.

The new law, passed unanimously, now prohibits rentals under 28 days and creates a new registry and permit program for all rentals, with a few exceptions. The legislation, which carries a $1,000 fine for first-time violators, aims at short-term rentals through websites such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway. Town employees will monitor those sites to spot violators.

Residents testifying at the board’s public hearing before the vote Tuesday appeared to be split on the issue. Lido Beach residents applauded the town board’s effort to curb what they described as unsafe party houses near their beachfront homes, while homeowners in villages such as Hempstead and Garden City, where the law does not apply, said renters put extra money in their pockets and provide an economic benefit to local businesses.

“We are not opposed to renting in our community,” said Elizabeth Murdy, president of the Lido Beach Civic Association. But she added that short-term rentals, such as a bachelor party in a hamlet neighborhood, have disrupted homeowners.

Shaun Skeete, a Hempstead Village resident who rents out a room in his home on Airbnb, said he was against the law — even though as a village resident, it doesn’t apply to him.

“We all need extra income to make ends meet,” he said.

According to testimony from Airbnb submitted to the town board, the “vast majority” of Airbnb hosts in Hempstead Town “use home sharing as a part-time source of supplemental income, not as a full-time commercial operation.”

Two hundred Airbnb hosts in the town rented to 6,000 people last year, which Airbnb said included mostly couples and families.

The registry and permit program applies to any rentals over 28 days, including year-round leases, and has a $500 fee for the beginning two-year permit and a $450 renewal fee. Mother-daughter and senior accessory apartments are not covered under the registry because they already have to abide by other building department regulations.

Huntington Town passed its own set of regulations on Tuesday limiting short-term rentals. That legislation creates a $50 permit process with a $25 renewal fee for short-term rentals. It also limits town residents to renting out rooms and space no more than 120 days each year.

The five East End towns and the Town of Islip also restrict short-term rentals, although Islip’s law does not apply to Fire Island.

With Valerie Bauman

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