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May 23, 2011 2:06 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Prom Season Brings Wave Of Illegal Party Rentals

May 25, 2011 11:40 AM

Many renters will not rent to groups of young people. Several houses listed on various Hamptons rental websites, or sometimes on web pages set up specifically to market rental houses on the East End, expressly say “no prom parties”—even while touting the availability of the house for weekend rentals and a wide variety of other illegal rental arrangements.

But some invite prom inquiries, touting the number of people who can be accommodated and offering private security and transportation. A page on Facebook dubbed the “Ultimate Prom Mansion” in the Hamptons—no specific address is listed—boasts of having 48 beds. Another page touts the availability of up to five separate seven- to 10-bedroom houses available for groups of up to 100, and offers luxury transportation and “official security guards that will ensure that the prom [party] will run smoothly.”

Mr. Betts, whose officers cite a half dozen or more prom parties in a typical season, said that encountering paid security guards is increasingly common. The guards typically do not appear to be there to safeguard the well-being of the kids as much as to protect the property and run interference should police or code enforcement show up. Some landlord/hosts have devised contingency plans for the partying students should authorities be at the door—at least one employing shouted alerts like “code red” and instructions for everyone to scurry to the house’s basement.

“Last year, we went to a house where an individual had rented a house and sublet it to a prom group, so the owner was unaware of what was going on,” Mr. Betts said. “He was very organized. After we got involved, he just moved them to another property.”

The financial temptation to take in the partying teens is substantial. According to rental brokers, a six- or seven-bedroom house will rent for as much as $5,000 to $7,000 for a single weekend in May or June. A Westhampton broker, who asked not to be named, said he has been contacted on more than one occasion by parents seeking to rent a house for their child and a group of friends for a weekend. Finding them a suitable listing is not difficult, he added.

“It’s the same houses that are renting as shares for July and August,” he said. “They’re big houses, lots of bedrooms and big living rooms, on big properties, away from neighbors. They can make more from prom rentals in June than from the Memorial Day to Labor Day crowd.”

‘A Dumb Idea’

With the dangers of prom parties apparent, some school districts are laboring to bring an end to the prom house trend. Some go to great lengths to ensure that parents are aware of the practice and aware of its legal issues. In the Half Hollow Hills School District, near the Suffolk-Nassau border, the parents of any student who wants to attend the prom must participate in a forum with school administrators, police and attorneys to discuss school policies and the criminal penalties that face any adult who facilitates underage drinking, known as “social host laws.” School officials have been in contact with East End police and code enforcement officers, according to Half Hollow Hills district spokesperson Christina Geed.

“We try to set the proper tone so that parents can’t say they didn’t know,” Ms. Geed said. “We still hear it—we know these parties are happening. But we believe that as a school district, we are doing everything possible to deter these parties from happening.”

At Scarsdale High School in Westchester County, Superintendent of Schools John Klemme said the school has a tight policy banning limousines for students, requiring that all prom attendees arrive on buses chartered by the school. But after the prom is over, he acknowledges, what students do is out of the district’s control.

“I’m not surprised that there might be houses rented by parents,” he said when told of a rental in contract with a district parent and dozens of kids expected to attend. “We go out of our way to communicate with parents and encourage them to organize after-prom activities. But our responsibility on prom night ends at 11 p.m. We are not a 24-7 institution.”

Parental supervision of underage drinking is not a new occurrence. Police say that they have been finding drinking parties for decades that were going on with the approval of a parent who was in the house. But the practice seems to be spreading and has reached a new level with the after-prom weekend parties. Some law enforcement agencies are asking lawmakers to significantly stiffen the penalties for adults who look the other way on underage drinking.

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It's about time these were cracked down on. I hope group rental houses will be too. Craig's list has been full of them for years, yet no one tracks down the listers. I brought a number of big group rentals listings on Craigs List to the attention of a previous administration's deputy supervisor who couldn't have cared less. I bet if any had been next door to him his response would have been different.

Some of the Craig's list houses even arrange parties at bars in New York so that potential ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on May 26, 11 2:28 PM
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