Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman
With the East End rental season surging early, and Airbnb showcasing over 300 possible Hamptons five-day “stays,” ranging from $39 per night for a single bedroom to $665 per night for a house that accommodates eight people, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman announced Wednesday that town code inspectors will commence a special crackdown on short-term rentals during the month of April.
The move is in response to the influx of New York City visitors who began arriving last month, fleeing Manhattan in an attempt to escape the COVID-19 epidemic.
As the streets and stores filled with second-homeowners and visitors, straining off-season resources, Mr. Schneiderman wrote Governor Andrew Cuomo seeking a temporary ban that would restrict travel from points west to essential travel only.
Signed by the supervisors of Riverhead and Southold towns, several village mayors, and leaders of the Shinnecock Nation, the letter appears to have never gotten to the governor. On Sunday during his daily update, Mr. Cuomo said he had not heard any request for travel restrictions from any government officials.
On March 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory for residents of the Tri-State area, cautioning them against non-essential travel. Four days earlier, White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Brix recommended that people who had recently left New York City self-quarantine for 14 days to staunch the spread of COVID-19.
Noting that most summer homes in Southampton were already occupied, Mr. Schneiderman wasn’t sure he’d try again to get a ban in place. Still, he mused about day trippers and people coming back and forth between the city and the East End.
“We are all trying to flatten the curve as quickly as possible,” he said Tuesday. “It is made much more difficult when new people are constantly entering your community, particularly from a known coronavirus hot spot.”
And while the requested travel ban didn’t come through, the supervisor said strict enforcement of existing short-term rentals will achieve a similar end.
The town’s rental law requires all rental properties obtain town permits, and it prohibits rental terms shorter than 14 days.
However, many property owners use online platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway to secure shorter stays in violation of Southampton’s rental law.
“Many properties are renting by the night or for just the weekend at a time when the community is growing increasingly concerned about new people entering the community from the New York Metropolitan area, the nation’s epicenter for the virus,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a press release sent out Tuesday.
When second homeowners flooded the town, there was increased risk due to increased population. Properties turning over several times in a short period of time can result in “a significantly increased risk,” Mr. Schneiderman said.
Fines for violations of the rental law can be up to double the rental revenues collected and lead to the revocation of a rental permit. The supervisor said he’d like to see the fines support local food pantries that have seen a four-fold increase in demand.
Anyone engaging in short-term rental activities, including listing a short term rental during the period of the state emergency order that runs through April 29, “will be subject to significant financial penalties, “ Ryan Murphy, public safety director for the town said in the release.
The town will make full exemption from the rental law for healthcare workers responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
In Southold, Supervisor Scott Russell is also reportedly mulling a temporary rental ban.
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