Friday, February 09, 2007

SUGGESTION OF THE DAY: NAPOLEON MITCHELL--INCREASE FINES FOR ILLEGAL HOUSING

Napoleon Mitchell of the Juniper Hill Civic Association has a suggestion: increase fines for illegal boarding houses. A fire last week at 66 Beech Street in Fairview fortunately did not injure anyone. However --it was determined that the property was a two family house. About 20 people lived there illegally. The house was subdivided into several smaller rooms, many of which showed evidence of electrical wiring that contributed to the overloaded circuit.
The owners had been cited for housing illegal roomers. The problem: the fines are very low--$500 a day maximum. A suggestion: the law should have a minimum fine of $1500 a day for the first offense and $5000 a day for a second offense.
Mr. Mitchell indicated that some towns in Westchester have been raising fines between $1000 and $5000 for violations of housing codes re: illegal apts and overcrowding. This would discourage unscrupulous landlords from renting illegal rooms in either an apartment or in a home.
The town recently hired an additional inspector to investigate illegal rooms. An increase in fines, as Mr. Mitchell states, would raise the stakes for those who are violating the law.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think this is an excellent idea. Why not take this further and make it a criminal offense? If someone in a condomninium , for instance, subdivides their unit and there is a fire that damages other owner's property or lives?
I wonder how these fines could be levied. How will anyone know how many people are living in a 2 family home? People have illegal work being done in their homes without permits and I can't beleive they are all caught at it.

John Malone said...

I think this is a excellent Idea.
I was in Paul Feiner's office last week to suggest the town start an "Illegal housing task force" just like White Plains and Elmsford. It's been brought up before at Town Board meetings and at my civic association meeting in the past. The Task Force should be made up of Building Dept.,Police, Fire,Public Works and the Legal departments. I really hope the Town Board finally acts on this suggestion before someone gets hurt or killed. It's a fact that most of house fires that have been in town have been in illegal homes.

Theresa said...

On a daily basis I shake my head at the overcrowded homes, the overcrowded parking (there used to be two way traffic on these streets) and the trash that is carelessly thrown onto our properties and along the sides of the roads.

I TOTALLY agree with the increase of fines. Fairview would benefit from such a Task Force as mentioned in John's blog. Something must be done. My true concern is how aggressive will these inspections and fines be enforced?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree to suggestion "increase fines for illegal housing". The problem is getting worse and worse, not only in Fairview, but all over Town.

I would advise anyone who sees this problem in their neighborhood to keep records - photo's of the strewn about trash in violation of the sanitation code, and your own written notes with date, time, and description of people moving in and out of the home - of the coming and going of the illegal boarders, and parking violations, and then report it to the building department by phone and by letter with documentation.

Follow up - don't assume that once you've reported it, it will be fixed. Keep in touch with the inspector and find out what progress is being made in stopping the illegal activity. This is very important, if you want a remedy.

Increasing the minimun fines to 1,500 and then to 5,000 for second offense will show that the Town is serious. The people running these illegal boarding houses don't have to have 20 boarders to make a nice profit. Some have many fewer than that and make a great deal of money on it and have been doing so for years.

They do not report this income - they do not pay any tax on the money they make. Meanwhile the rest of us have to suffer with the garbage, parking, traffic, and noise that they generate. And frequently the boarders are living in substandard, unsafe conditons.

The Town must insist that the fine be levied AND PAID in full - otherwise we might as well put up a sign for all to see as they enter Greenburgh that says "Buy a house or condo here, and turn it into an illegal boarding house (cash cow). We have codes, but no one enforces them. Do whatever you want".

Anonymous said...

Count me in on incresing the fines to let the home owner know the commmunity means business.
The 5 and 7 cars parked in the expanded driveways that overflow at night onto the grass is terrible in Parkway Gardens. In one case on North rd the trees and grass lawn has been removed to make way for parking cars and vans.
The code enforcement department and others looking into illegal housing should also look at the number of roof mounted Tv dish antennas. Three dish in a 2 bedroom house is a bit much. Further the sanitation department might prove helpful in identifying some of these overcrowded and illegal houses by noting the consistently high volume of garbage and comingled trash left for pickup - especially cans and bottles.

Anonymous said...

I agree that more vigorous enforcement is necessary. Increasing the fines is a step in the right direction. What is also required and urgently needed, is more afforable housing for all our residents. With out an effort to house our residents in decent, truly afforable housing no enforcement efforts will ever be successful nor prevent overcrowding.

Anonymous said...

What is an "illegal" dwelling. These terms are being thrown around without being defined. This is a slippery slope. Are you going to start kicking peoples relatives out of houses? There is already enough intrusion of government into homeowner's privacy. Unless a problem is rampant and can be proven, less legislation is best legislation.

Anonymous said...

What is an illegal dwelling, you ask?
It is not about throwing your mother, father, sibling or grandchild out of your home. It is not about renting your home to someone when you live somewhere else. It IS about renting rooms in your house to unrelated strangers.

Some who rent out these rooms divide bedrooms in half so that one part of the room doesn't even have a window. That way they can squeeze rent out of two people for one room. Some landlords turn closets into sleeping space and get paid for the closet. Many of these landlords install plumbing and electric without obtaining permits - which means that they don't want the work checked for safety - and don't want the building inspector to know thay they are violating basic safety and sanitation codes. They just don't care because they are after the rental money, which they don't report to IRS as income.

I disagree with you about government intrusion. Those of us who brought homes in Town with the understanding that it was zoned ONE FAMILY, NOT boarding house or motel area, are disadvantaged economically and in quality of life when the gov't lets other home owners in the area rent out rooms in violation of the code.

If you want to run a rooming house, buy one in an area where it is allowed, report your income and pay your fair share of the taxes for this business. Don't expect the neighbors to put up with streams of strangers with cars and coming and going and leaving trash around, while we pick up the tab.

Anonymous said...

What you are describing is a legitimate concern, but unfortunately there will be an abuse of the law by government officials. It's already happening. The fine for the undefined "illegal apartments" is quadrupling. Senior citizens living by themselves in a 3000 sq. ft. house are being busted for having a renter. How do you keep that from happening or do you think that's ok?
There are already laws in place that address parking and garbage problems. Why don't you urge your well paid civil servants to enforce these laws?
As far as saftey goes. Who gave the local government the resposibility for a persons safety in a home. This is just a money making scam that is done in the name of safety. If safety is so important, why don't you need a permit from some government agency before you get your car fixed?
If government is going to try to regulate the over crowding of single and two family homes, it can't be by describing and naming a dwelling "illegal". If you wanted accurate legislation, it should limit the number of inhabitants per square foot of the building.

Anonymous said...

Good idea, although I expect that prompt enforcement is as important as increased fines. You might want to encourage reporting of potential overcrowding. For example, at the corner of W. Hartsdale Avenue and Woods End Road, there are often several cars and vans parked on the street. Due to winter parking regulations, the vans park at night on the grass inside the property line fence.

Luvaghn Brown said...

I fully agree that the fines for illegal housing should be raised to a level where it becomes a sufficient disincentive for the owners to create dangerous environments not only for the people in the 'apartments', but surrounding buildings. In addition it is unfair for these places to exist and decrease the value of other homes in the area. Coordination between the building, sanitation and police departments will help in identifying these illegal residences. Vigorous enforcement will be the key.

Anonymous said...

You are wrong. A senior citizen living alone in a 3,000 sq ft. home will not be "busted" for having a renter. Such senior citizen can have even two renters (if the renter is one person - not one renter bringing in 4 more people to share the space) and it will be legal in such a size home.

I suspect that in the case you are you are talking about the "one renter" has turned out to be 5 or 6 unrelated people.

Once you go beyond two single person renters, you must apply for a variance to the zoning code. Your neighbors will be notified of the hearing. They will have a chance to express the impact that the renters will have on the neighborhood services -parking, traffic, noise level etc.

Who gave the government the responsibility for safety in a person's home? New York State and the Town have a set of safety standards in place that must be met when homes are built or remodeled. This is to prevent unscrupulous builders or owners from placing human life in danger.

You don't need a permit to fix your car because the mechanic's repair place has been licensed by the state because it has met minimum standards at least, of safety, and honesty. If these standards are not met, the license is revoked and the owner is out of business.

You say "the number of square feet per person" should be the standard. It is the standard - assuming that the number of bathrooms and the electric capacity is not overburdened to the point of hazard to life and limb. BUT - if you have a house in a SINGLE FAMILY ZONED neighborhood, you have brought into the Zoning Code as have all others who purchased in that neighborhood. You must abide by that code as described above or suffer the consequences.

As for the Town collecting money from fines for violations being a scam - I find the building department very careful in pursuing these cases. Too careful in my opinion. It seems to be very hard to stop the violators. They appear to have more rights than the people who live around them.

Anonymous said...

A second kitchen is not allowed in a home zoned single family or in a condo or apt. house. Second kitchen means what's necessary to prepare and store food. Don't think that if you don't have a second stove that it's not a second kitchen. The definition of kitchen is broader than that.

Anonymous said...

How about now that this argument has gone back and forth, Mr, Feiner and the town attorney define "illegal apartment". First things first right? Oh and I don't want a definition from any of the wannabe lawyers or self proclaimed experts on the subject. Let's hear from a town official.

Anonymous said...

I understand that there is legislation in the works that will require a permit if you want to re-arrange your living room furniture.

Anonymous said...

You will only need a permit to move you living room furniture if you intend to place mattresses on the floor so that you can rent out your living room as part of a boarding house for your considerable profit - while lowering the value of your neighbor's house.

Anonymous said...

"What is an illegal apartment" asks the 1:26pm blogger.

Since you were able to log in to this blog, you certainly have the ability to go to greenburghny.com home page and click on Town Code. Go to Contents, then Zoning, then click on Part 111, chap. 373 and see for yourself what the regulations are for taking money from strangers to line your pockets and overburden Town services.

Anonymous said...

If it isn’t in the local law already it should be illegal for a family to have more than three children because you know with the rising cost of public education they are overburdening town services the most. And if there are too many cars in front of a house you can have the police run the plates to see if the owners live there and if the people living there don’t conform to your idea of the perfect household, then you can call the apartment Nazis to raid the place.

Anonymous said...

I have an idea for previous blogger at 6:32pm who obviously likes the idea of shoving 15 unrelated people into one room, and calls the rest of us Nazi's when we object.

Let's have the cars and the trash of these unrelated people dumped on your lawn and in your yard. And let's all agree to increase in taxes so that we can add sanitation workers to pick up the trash. Oh, but I forgot - you don't really live there - you just go by to pick up the great rent your getting for your illegal activities. The hell with the rest of us, you figure. You've got yours.

Anonymous said...

BUILDING DEPT,have you checked out all the MCMANSIONS that are being built. I would love to know how many are multiple dwellings.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting: McMasions as multiple dwellings in violation of code.
My expericence as a resident of unincorporated Town, is that there are multiple dwelling violations in every economic status, lowest price housing to the highest price..so..Building Dept. and Code Enforcement officer, do your job. We are waiting and watching. Thank you, from the rest of us, who abide by the code.

Anonymous said...

Homes that take more time to be built should be checked every month .What's the time limit for a completion of a home ,months or years.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of Mcmansion's are the fire codes enforced.

Anonymous said...

The questions that we are asking could better be answerd by Mr.Samis. No one from the Town knows what's going on.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! to Mr. Mitchells suggestion, and to everyone else as well. As a longtime Greenburgh resident we are appalled to find our quiet and lovely neighborhood with a boarding house right next door to us. It is a very uncomfortable situation. The house was sold a year ago and the situation has been escalating since. We, as residents, taxpayers and homeowners,who work very hard to obtain and maintain our homes cannot give up this fight to find a remedy, and we need it fast before our properties are worthless.

Anonymous said...

Inspections should be done in homes that are being built,especially additions, more often. Work is usually done on Saturdays,Sunday, and holidays. If complaints are made, no one seems to listen. Do you need more manpower to enforce the laws? EXTENTSIONS on permits should be limited to one year. Some jobs are eyesores,you know which ones.

Anonymous said...

Homes that take years to complete should be checked . Have all the laws of Greenburgh been followed? Slopes cleared of trees,giving other home owners big water problems.Yes we want more land behind our homes, but there is an existing law that says no.WHAT'S HAPPENING .Drive arround and check just where steep slopes exist,and you will have your answers.

Anonymous said...

Dumpsters should be made a must while construction jobs are in progress. Doing this the jobs will be checked by the Town. The contractor will have to complete the work within the permit time,if there is a permit. THERE IS TOO MUCH GARBAGE all over GREENBURGH.Properties where construction is taken place are an eyesore.

Anonymous said...

DOES ANYONE FROM THE TOWN READ THE COMMENTS WETHER IT BE THE BOARD OR THE DEPARTMENT HEADS? IF YOU DO AND TAKE SOME OF THE ADVICE GIVEN BY THE WRITERS, GREENBURGH WILL BE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE.WE ALL CAN'T WRONG.

john malone said...

It's a shame that there are a few people on this blog,who don't have a clue. They think it's alright to be a burden on Town services,like sanitation/water /schools etc. while renting out rooms to people and not paying their fair share. But the most important fact is SAFETY. It's obivous you never saw the inside of an Illegal house, with the faulty wiring and over crowding. They will put a mattress anywhere it fits.Up until now the Town would fine these landlords a nominal fine and they would use it as a business exspense. We need to make these fines heavier. This has been brought to the towns attention before.But,unfortunately I don't think anything will be done until someone a(resident or firefighter)gets HURT or Killed. We've been lucky so far. But you should not press your Luck! The town needs to set up a "Safety Housing Task Force"