For Immediate Release
April 7, 2020
Contact: Janice Wilson (631) 283-6055
Southampton Town already requires that all rental properties obtain a rental permit and adhere to a minimum rental period of two weeks. However, many properties use online platforms like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway to secure short-term tenancies that violate the two week minimum. 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 NY Metropolitan area, the nation’s epicenter for the virus.
On March 28, the CDC issued a travel advisory, urging residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential domestic travel. According to Supervisor Schneiderman, these short-term rentals “not only violate the law, they violate the spirit of the travel advisory.” On March 24, members of the Federal Coronavirus Taskforce, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, recommended that travelers from NY self-quarantine for 14 days. “How can that be achieved if people are coming out here for only a few days?” asked Supervisor Schneiderman. “It’s one thing if a family comes to a property for several weeks. Yes, there is an increased risk. But when a property turns over several times in the same period, there is a significantly increased risk,” said the Supervisor.
Supervisor Schneiderman has already deemed the Ordinance Enforcement division essential in order to enforce the State directives on non-essential business operation and social distancing. Now the division will gear up for a crackdown on short-term rentals occurring in April during the period of the State emergency order. Fines for violations can be up to two times the rental revenues collected and revocation of a rental permit. Schneiderman said he would like to see all fines used to support local food pantries that have already seen a four-fold increase in service demand. Schneiderman said that he is working with Public Safety Director Ryan Murphy on the crackdown. Mr. Murphy also directs the Ordinance Enforcement division.
“We are launching this crackdown on flagrant abusers of our rental law beginning immediately,” said Mr. Murphy. “We are focusing on the period of the State emergency order which runs through April 29th. Anyone we find engaging in short-term rental activities, including the posting of a short-term rental listing for this period, will be subject to significant financial penalties."
On March 27, citing concerns about the area’s limited healthcare system and infrastructure, Supervisor Schneiderman sent a letter, co-signed by many East End elected leaders, to Governor Cuomo, asking the Governor to consider restrictions on non-essential travel from NY City, “including daily sightseeing visits and leisure travel to vacation homes.”
“We are all trying to flatten the curve as quickly as possible,” said Supervisor Schneiderman. “It is made much more difficult when new people are constantly entering your community, particularly from a known coronavirus hot spot.” Although the Governor has not issued any of the requested travel restrictions, the Supervisor said that “strictly enforcing our existing restrictions on short-term rentals will achieve a similar end and help protect our community.”
Schneiderman said that the Town would make a full exemption from the rental law if the rental is for healthcare workers responding to the Covid-19 epidemic.