Members of the heard feedback from the public Monday night on a new law proposed to tighten regulations on rental units — a law created in order to prevent potentially dangerous situations from overcrowding, according to village trustees.
But the proposed law as it is now written at 20 pages in length is overbearing and dangerous in itself, said former Greenport Mayor Dave Kapell at Monday’s public hearing.
“With all due respect, whoever drafted this law did not realize how much of a severe hardship this would be on our immigrant population,” Kapell said. “I’m sure that this is not intended to be bad, but ultimately, this is deciding who gets to live in Greenport and who does not — but in reality different human beings come here to make a living and hold up our community, and this cuts into the very character of the village."
The proposed law as written dictates how many people can live in a rental property. Landlords will have to pay $100 for new permits and renewals and will have to provide the village with a list of their tenants.
Other requirements of landlords under the proposed law include a floor plan to be provided to the village depicting the location and size of each bedroom and the proposed number of occupant per bedroom. Landlords must also designate whether their rental units are seasonal, transient or temporary dwellings. Another section of the proposed law addresses families:
"Evidence that more than five persons living in a single dwelling unit who are not related by blood, marriage or legal custody shall create a rebuttable assumption that such persons do not constitute the functional equivalent of a traditional family," reads the proposed law.
“You’re trying to define what a traditional family is here — even the federal government has no right to do that,” Kapell said. “There are 400 rental units in town — this law is a burden on all of them.”
Village Trustee Dave Murray said that he pushed for this proposed law for one main reason — the safety of the tenants.
“I’ve been in some dwellings where more things are plugged into one electrical socket than you can shake a stick at,” he said. “You talk about how many would be displaced by this law, but how many are safe without it? I’m not saying this is written perfectly, but when you’ve got 30 people living in one dwelling, that is a safety issue.”
Greenport Mayor David Nyce was not in attendance at the public hearing, but trustee George Hubbard explained that without rental regulations in the code, village building inspectors cannot inspect a questionable property without permission from the land owner.
“We get numerous calls for emergencies and regular complaints from the fire chief, situations where they can barely get a stretcher through a hallway and out of a house,” Hubbard said. “If we write this into law, the situation at least can be reviewed by a building inspector. As it stands, the building department can't just walk into a place on the assumption that there are 30 people living there.”
Former mayor Kapell said that a meeting with the town police chief and justice should give the village the means to get a court order to inspect a handful of problem cases. Resident Eileen Kapell agreed that the proposed law is too much of a heavy-handed solution to what she sees as a small problem in the village.
“If there are a few problems in town, someone has to take the lead and get on these landlords’ butts,” she said.
Village board members decided to keep the public hearing open and send the draft law back to the code committee for reworking.
See attached PDF of the proposed rental regulations law.