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Crackdown on illegal off-campus rental housing

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Homeowners attribute the major problem in off-campus housing to landlords. (GUL BERKTAS / THE STATESMAN)

Landlords are the main problem in off-campus housing conflicts.

In the midst of the Town of Brookhaven cracking down on illegal rental houses used by Stony Brook students, residents do not place the blame for major problems on students.

For Bruce Sander, founder of the group known as Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, the issue lies with landlords who allow more than four unrelated renters in a home, a policy which is against the town code.

According to Sander, there are more than 900 homeowners who joined together “determined to legally fight these unscrupulous absentee landlords who line the pockets at the expense of the students’ safety…” Their goal is twofold—SBCH wants to see the illegal homes sold to families. The group also wants to have designated off-campus housing built for students in properly zoned areas or as legal accessory apartments, which is a house where the landlord lives alongside the renters.

He also explained that students are offered space rentals in homes that are not registered with the town or university. This means that those homes were not properly inspected for fire and safety codes, putting students at risk.

“This is not about the students (except those at the known party houses),” Sander wrote in an email. He described how absentee landlords are the reason why the same houses are repeatedly the sources of out of control parties that have resulted in “many cars everywhere, many underage drinkers, drunken drivers and walkers, loud music late into the night…broken alcohol bottles and beer cans strewn on neighbors’ properties….”

Stressing that the homeowners are not against students who rent legal accessory apartments, Sander wrote in his email that “to some extent, the problem has reduced the number of students per home, but there are some landlords who insist on the tenants getting more students to rent as a requirement for getting a lease.”

One house, identified in a Town of Brookhaven press release as 150 Christian Avenue in Stony Brook, had its rental license revoked last month as its use of 14 bedrooms for at least 14 Stony Brook students did not comply with town codes.

In the same press release, the town listed rental policy changes: Rental permits or registrations may only be given after all violations in question are cleared up, landlords must sign a copy of town codes in order to apply for a rental permit, which will be immediately taken away if the codes are not adhered to, and landlords with rental permits will be listed on the town website along with their permit number and expiration date.

Stony Brook’s Off-Campus Housing webpage includes the requirements for listing rentals. While the Office’s policy states that “the Off-Campus Housing Office provides a listing service only and does not control nor is responsible for privately owned off campus living units by students,” the website includes a letter from the Office of External Relations open to concerned residents. It explains that rentals listed with the university are to be cross-referenced with legal town listings.

The letter also states that “…the University met with representatives of the Brookhaven Town Attorney’s office to discuss steps the University and the town can take jointly to educate students about compliance with the town code.”

The Town of Brookhaven launched a mobile application last month that enables residents  to report any housing violations that they witness. According to the press release, Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said, “This new mobile app provides a direct line right at your fingertip into our Law and Building Departments so we can take swift action when a complaint is filed.”

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  • J

    JOHN J NASHOct 21, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    My wife and I have just moved to Stony brook within the last year. We live on Christian Ave and are quite dismayed at the giant home on Christian with all the cars parked on that property. We just heard of your organization and would like to know more. Hope to hear from you soon. A concerned neighbor.

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