Fingers Crossed - 27 East

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Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1732572

Fingers Crossed

Red alert! Attention, homeowners who want to rent their houses in the Hamptons (perhaps to offset exorbitant and ever-rising taxes?). Last Sunday, The New York Times ran an article, appropriately, in the “Styles” section, which is a must-read and a caution.

It details the new trend of Hamptons house appropriation by au fait scofflaws who refuse to pay their rent or leave when their rental expires, claiming pandemic privileges. One such featured opportunist, a 32-year-old “wellness professional and aspirational influencer” looking to develop a “personal brand” (Gwyneth Paltrow will have a lot to answer for when she goes to the great spa in the sky), clamped her hands on a June 1 through August 8 rental on a desirable, upscale house in Montauk.

Once there, she decided it was her “home” (AirBnB and their clones, who stress that rental allows you to live, then co-opt, a property owner’s “life,” also will have a lot to answer for at the great regulatory board in the sky). Then, claiming the right to live free because of the “global pandemic,” she dug in, refusing to pay the balance of the rent, nor to move out in the foreseeable future. Only litigation finally extracted her from the premises. And that is increasingly prevalent, said lawyers quoted in the article.

However, before the Tenant Safe Harbor Act went into effect on June 30 (and expires on January l, 2020), the abuse amounting to robbery of seasonal rentals had been assured by the passing of the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, which is ongoing. This act, which was a necessary corrective to documented landlord abuses in Manhattan and environs (think Jared Kushner & Co.’s practices), imposed strict rental and evictions restrictions statewide.

It was supported by local hero Fred Thiele, with indications that he neither read it fully nor understood its implications for short-term, seasonal rentals. He didn’t give a second’s thought to how it would hamstring his constituents (who have paid his salary for decades) and leave them at the mercy of people who saw a way to live rent-free and indulge fantasies of “their home” without the bothersome reality of mortgage, taxes, maintenance and capital investment — or, everything underpinning a “lifestyle.”

Thiele, brought up short for his negligence, promised to introduce a legislative change to the law in January 2020. He did: And it has sat in chambers ever since, another testimony to his efficacy and political clout.

Meanwhile, homeowners are advised to do background checks and keep their fingers crossed. And chance a lifetime investment becoming someone’s crash pad, or trash pad, or a “brand” that they are paying for.

Frances Genovese

Southampton

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