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Huntington landlords ordered to register rental properties

The Huntington Town Board has revised town code to require an annual inspection and registration of residential rental properties that are not owner-occupied.

The revision will make it unlawful for real estate agents to list, show or offer for rent properties that do not have a valid rental permit.

Several speakers weighed in against the policy before Wednesday's vote at the town board meeting, saying the fees associated with the new policy were an extra tax and that the law would create homelessness.

"The legislation as written is illegal and discriminatory," said Pete Peterson, a 32-year resident of Huntington. "The Constitution says one is innocent until proven guilty, but here by requiring someone to register, pay an exorbitant fee, and have an inspection . . . makes the party guilty until proven innocent."

Town board member Tracey Edwards, sponsor of the legislation, said she is open to tweaking the law, which was meant to address safety concerns and other issues.

"My goal is to try to improve the situation that we have now, and we have to do it in an orderly fashion," she said. "The way you do that [is] you start with legislation and you tweak it along the way."

The new code holds rental properties and absentee landlords to the same standards as homeowners with accessory apartments.

Violators face a fine of $150-$750 for a first offense; $750-$1,500 for a second within five years; and $1,500 to $2,500 for a third or more offense within five years of the first.

Owners who do not occupy their property must pay an initial $75 application fee and an annual permit and renewal application fees totaling $500. Under the new code, the owner also has to obtain a certificate from a licensed professional engineer, a licensed architect or a town code enforcement officer that the property complies with town, state, county and federal laws. "It's a good start," said Edwards. "My number one goal is about safety first -- responder safety, tenant safety and neighbor safety and preservation."

Buildings that are subject to the new rules include single- and two-family dwellings, as well as buildings with up to three units, such as a building with a store at ground level and two apartments above.Seasonal residences would be exempt.

A public hearing was held on the matter in October but because the legislation was substantially changed just before that meeting, another public hearing was required and that was held in December.

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