The Village News: Editorials

December 22, 2016

Village Rentals... Where Do We Go From Here?


EditorialThe question of rentals in Bellport Village has been hotly debated for some time now. Terms such as B&B, Airbnb, Home Rentals, Room Rentals, Short Term, Long Term, Monthly Rentals, Weekly Rentals, Daily Rentals, Amenities, Residential Area, Commercial Area, and Professional area have been thrown around to the point where I for one, can no longer keep track of them. I don’t really know if I’m for the proposed changes in Village Code or against them because I’m confused.

The question of Village rentals came to a head at the December 19, 2016 Village Board meeting when a proposal for the first step towards updating the Village Codes, the process for registering a “Whole House” property for rental purposes, was voted down two to two, with one Trustee absent. After the meeting, I asked several members of the Board, “Where do we go from here?” and their response was, they didn't know, but it would take the support of at least three members of the Board to put the subject back on the agenda.

My guess is that many of you are just as confused as I am so, in an effort to better understand the issues involved, I asked for a meeting with Mayor Fell, Village Clerk John Kocay, and Village Attorney Dave Moran so they could help me better understand the issues and processes facing the Village.

First off, I don’t think there is any doubt about this being a “Hot Topic” both inside and outside of the Village. You almost can’t pick up a newspaper without seeing an article about a city, town, or village government trying to adopt new laws to control the rapid growth of rental properties in their communities. No one wants a “Party House” next door and elected officials are trying to adopt rules and laws that will preserve the character of their communities while at the same time respecting the rights of the owners of those properties. Bellport’s Village Board says it wants to try to stay ahead of this trend rather than play “Catch Up” after things get out of hand. Let’s see if I can clarify the issues involved without muddying the waters any further.

What was the Board’s goal when the issue of B&B’s was originally brought up?
Right now B&B’s, or the rental of individual rooms in an “Owner Occupied” home for 14 days or less, is not a permitted use in the residential areas of Bellport Village. Village Hall’s goal was to find a way for home owners to be able to operate B&B’s in the residential areas of the Village without impacting the neighbors of those homes.

Can you rent your entire house to someone?
Yes, in the Residential areas of the Village. Yes in the Commercial/Professional areas of the Village as long as the property has a residential component to it. You can’t rent a storefront to a family for residential purposes.

Can you operate a B&B in your home?
It depends on where you live in the Village. If you’re in the Commercial/Professional areas of the Village you can. (Click Here for a map showing the Commercial and Professional areas of Bellport Village.) If you live in the residentially zoned areas of the Village, a B&B is not a permitted use.

What paperwork needs to be done?
In the Commercial/Professional areas, an application for a B&B has to be made to the Village Building Department. As B&B’s are not permitted in the residential areas of the Village there’s no paperwork involved. Monday night’s vote at the Village Board meeting would have created the paperwork for “Whole House” rentals anywhere in the Village, but, as I said, it was defeated.

What does it cost?
For a Full House rental, right now there is no fee and no registration because the proposal didn’t pass. If it had passed, there would have been a yearly fee of $250 to register your house with the Village if you wanted to rent it to someone. For a B&B in the Commercial/Professional areas, the only fee would be the normal Building Department fees relative to the cost of any renovations which would have to be done to create the B&B. There are no yearly registration fees for B&B’s.

Are there currently any restrictions on Whole House rentals?
Yes, no more than three, “unrelated,” people can rent a house in the Village. In other words, a mother, father, son, and daughter are fine. Three fraternity brothers are fine, but four fraternity brothers renting a house in the Village is not permitted.

What does an ID Card cost for someone renting a house in the Village?
Up until recently, the person signing the lease could buy a Village ID card for $75 and then have additional people use Village amenities as his or her guest. Last month, at the November Village Board meeting, the Board changed the ID Card price structure. The renter now pays a flat $250 for from one to five ID Cards for the people in his or her party. If additional cards are needed beyond the initial five, they will cost an additional $75 each.

What safety inspections are required of a house before it can be rented?
Right now, none. The proposal that failed would have required various safety inspections by the Village Building Department, Fire Department, etc., before the house could be rented. The owner of the house could have also “Self Certified” the safety of the house by bringing in an approved commercial service to certify the safety of the house.

Does a B&B have to serve breakfast?

Does the owner of the house have to be present and live in the house?
For a Whole House rental, no. For a B&B, it isn’t as clear. It seems that the owner of the house, or their agent would have to live in the house. In other words, a manager could be hired to live in the house to fulfill this requirement. I pointed out that having a hired manager present is not the same thing as having the owner of the house there. The owner of the house is going to care for the house and their neighbors much more carefully than a “hired hand.”

Which Village amenities are available to a renter with a valid Village ID Card?
For Whole House renters, all of them. They have access to and pay for amenities, such as the ferry or golf, as if they are Village residents. B&B guests would have to be taken to an amenity by the home owner as the home owner’s guest and pay guest fees.

I then posed this question. I understand how the person renting their home benefits, they make money. However, since the Village amenities are owned collectively by all of the Village residents, how does allowing renters to use the amenities benefit the average home owner who isn’t renting their home?
The answer was that if you’re renting your house you have to give up your Village ID card for the period of time you’re renting your house. So, the load on the amenities increases because of the renter, but it decreases because the owner of the house can’t use the amenities. The result, according to the Village Board, is no impact.

Length of rental
B&B’s can be rented for up to 14 days. If you rent a Whole House for four months or longer, you are a resident of the Village of Bellport with all the rights and privileges that any other resident would enjoy. If you’d like a Village ID Card, you just go down to Village Hall and pick one up just as any other resident would. The Owner of the house is simply the owner of the house. If you rent a whole house for less than four months, you are a “short term renter.” If you’d like an ID Card, you can purchase one to five cards for a flat $250. Additional cards, beyond the initial five, are $75 each.

Are there any seasonal differences?
For now, there aren’t. The proposed new code would have treated the May to September time period differently, but that isn’t in place so, for now, every month in the year is treated the same.

The bottom line...
Right now, there are almost no rules or regulations in place to govern either Whole House or B&B rentals other than B&B’s aren’t allowed in the residential areas of the Village. Therefore, if problems with a particular rental crop up, the Village has very few tools to use in order to help the neighboring homes. At least some members of the Village Board would like to take the first steps towards putting those tools in place. They point out that any changes put in place would be reviewed periodically and changed when necessary to better serve the residents of the Village.

Having listened to what everyone had to say, I now think I have a better idea of the issues involved. Change is inevitable, but when it comes to Bellport Village, I’d like that change to be “evolutionary,” not “revolutionary.” I think rental pressures, both Whole House and B&B’s, will only increase on the Village, not diminish. I think the Village Board should work on a new proposal for changes to the Village Codes and regulations in order to better protect those residents who are not renting out either all or part of their homes. The priority should be how to protect the unique way of life we’ve all come to cherish here in Bellport Village.


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Larry Sribnick

Larry Sribnick