Whether an illegal rental above a commercial storefront, or a single-family house converted unlawfully into a multi-family dwelling, illegal rental apartments are growing in our communities, taking their toll on untold lives, and straining our already stretched tax dollars.
Think illegal rentals are okay? After all, who gets hurt? Think again. Illegal renters use the same services that lawful taxpayers do -- from police and fire protection, to refuse collection, to our public schools and recreational facilities -- all at your expense. Come on. Someone has to foot the bill. It's your wallet that's being picked clean!
Now, the Town of Hempstead, armed with revised code provisions giving broader authority to investigate and enforce, working closely with local civic groups, is taking aim at illegal rental apartments. No longer is access to the apartment necessary to warrant action. The town can issue a summons based on outside indicia of an unlawful dwelling. No longer a mere slap on the wrist for the offending renter. Fines have been modified to have a more meaningful impact, to both punish and deter. No longer will either town or community turn the other cheek when realtors and their agents tell prospective home buyers, "Its okay to have an accessory apartment upstairs or in the basement, as long as the neighbors don't complain." It's not okay, and the neighbors are complaining. The Town of Hempstead, your local civic associations, and members of the Tri-Community Alliance, will be watching, listening, and taking appropriate measures to stem the tide of illegal rentals. Realtors, take note: If you attempt to rent illegal apartments (and remember, all basement apartments are illegal), or to sell a home that has an illegal apartment, you will be held accountable!
Think that you qualify for an exemption? You might. Under certain circumstances, you can maintain an accessory apartment in your home (i.e., mother/daughter), but only with a proper permit from the town. Unsure? Check with the Town of Hempstead Building Department at 516-489-5000.
Illegal rentals diminish the value of our homes, eat away at our tax dollars, overburden our schools and essential services, negatively impact on our overall quality of life, and place lives at risk. Think that illegal rental apartments will be tolerated in our communities? Think again!
If you suspect an illegal rental on your block or in your neighborhood, contact Town Councilman Edward Ambrosino's office at 516-489-5000. Your identity will be kept confidential. Your community will be kept from the ravages of unlawful tenancies. And the bottom line on your property tax bill will be kept from increasing even more to meet the expense of paying for "residents" who do not pay their own way.
Seth D. Bykofsky
(The writer is former president of the West Hempstead Civic Association, and currently serves as Co-Chair of the Tri-Community Alliance of Elmont, Franklin Square and West Hempstead.)