Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) had a warning for unscrupulous landlords who illegally turn residential homes into rooming houses.
“Don’t do it,” Romaine said. “We’re coming for you.”
One landlord found that Sept. 8 statement to be true March 9 when the Town of Brookhaven Law Department condemned a house at 1423 Stony Brook Road in Stony Brook, where eight people were sharing the home, according to a press release from the Town of Brookhaven. Seven of the residents were found to be students of Stony Brook University. The landlord of the ranch-style house that had been unlawfully converted to include living space in the garage and basement was not named by the town.
“This was one of the worst cases of illegal student housing that we have seen in the Stony Brook area,” Romaine said in a statement. “Off-campus housing that is not in compliance with town building and fire codes threatens the health and safety of the students who reside there and the neighbors who live nearby.”
Romaine attributed the discovery of the violations to the town’s law department and the vigilance of neighbors who contacted the town. He urged students and their families to ensure their housing compiles with town code.
At the Stony Brook Road home, the town found bedroom doors equipped with key locks, and some rooms containing refrigerators and microwaves. In addition to the illegal basement and garage apartments, with two bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom in each, the basement had a coin-operated washer and dryer.
The law department issued the property owner several housing code violations, including no smoke detectors, no carbon monoxide detectors, no rental permit and illegal use as a rooming house. The owner’s school tax assessment relief property tax exemption was revoked, and both the Suffolk County District Attorney and New York State Attorney General’s offices have been notified for prosecution.
Bruce Sander, president of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, said the organization reported the house to the town, calling the members the “eyes and ears of this community.”
“We are glad that this landlord will get the fines, etc. that he or she deserves, and I hope they shut this house down permanently and sell it to a family,” Sander said. “This type of landlord does not belong in any community when they openly violate the laws and put the students at risk as well as destroy property values of the surrounding neighborhoods.”
SBU offered dorm rooms on campus to the displaced students. In the last five years, the university has been working collaboratively with the Town of Brookhaven, the Suffolk County Police Department and local community groups to address safety concerns for students living in off-campus housing, according to a statement from SBU spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow.
Before the house was condemned March 9, the town notified university administration, and a coordinated effort was conducted by the school’s government and community relations, campus residences, dean of students’ office and commuter student services and off-campus living to find rooms for the students, according to Sheprow.
At the Sept. 8 press conference, Judith Greiman, chief deputy to the president of SBU and senior vice president for government and community relations, said the school takes great steps to ensure students’ safety. Among measures the university has undertaken since March 2013 are prohibiting advertisements of off-campus rentals on SBU’s website, unless the landlord can provide a Brookhaven Town rental permit, and prohibiting posting on campus bulletin boards. The university also holds tenants’ rights workshops to help students understand what to look for when renting.
In 2013, Romaine launched a mobile phone app, available on Apple iPhones and Android mobile devices, to help fight illegal off-campus housing in the town. To download the free mobile app, visit www.brookhavenny.gov from a mobile device.
Residents can also call 631-451-TOWN (8696) between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to report housing violations. For more information or to access the town’s code book, go to www.brookhavenny.gov.