The Long Beach building and police departments raided a two-family home on Aug. 15 and arrested a tenant who allegedly rented out illegal rooms.
After a search of the home — at 142 E. Market St. — officials with the city’s Housing Task Force found that a second floor tenant, who was not identified, was collecting rent from illegal tenants that were subletting individual rooms. Units were rented out of the three-level house in the basement, the first floor and the third floor, officials said.
According to Zoning Inspector Richard Schuh, the second floor tenant was arrested and charged with using and maintaining an illegal rooming house. Schuh added that the absentee owner, who lives in New Jersey, was issued a summons for the violations as well. The pair was charged with at least 18 state and local violations for having seven separate dwelling units that housed at least 15 people, Schuh said.
The Building Department had received complaints about the property in the past, officials said. After learning about the violations, Schuh said that he investigated the property, collected evidence and submitted an application for an administrative search to the Long Beach City Court with the help of Assistant Corporation Counsel Greg Kalnitsky.
The arrest and summons come after city officials said they are targeting dwellings that create safety and quality of life issues. Members of the city’s Housing Task Force responded to three properties in June after neighbors complained to the police about loud parties, group housing, parking, trash and other issues, Building Commissioner Scott Kemins told the Herald in July. He added that the city prohibits rentals for fewer than 30 days and allows no more than two unrelated people to share a residence.
Schuh and other city officials emphasized that safety hazards come hand-in-hand with overcrowded residences.
“Our top priority is always public safety, and this situation also poses a risk to members of our fire and police departments who may respond to this building for an emergency,” Schuh said.
“This was a true quality of life and safety issue, with an overcrowded house, as well as people living in areas not designed for living purposes,” City Councilman Scott Mandel said in a statement. “Landlords who egregiously violate our zoning laws should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Since 2012, Mandel continued, the city found 112 landlords who were illegally renting to tenants, resulting in many arrests and prosecutions with fines as high as tens of thousands of dollars.
The fines can reach $20,000, Schuh said, and property owners are required to bring their residences into compliance with the city’s zoning code.
The Housing Task Force was launched in 2012 with a $30,000 community development block grant, and has issued housing violations to dozens of homes, for which property owners have appeared in Long Beach City Court. Offenses have ranged from illegal two- and three-family apartments to the creation of rooming houses, garages that were converted into rooms and the operation of a commercial business from a residential building.
Officials urge residents who are aware of illegal apartments to contact the Housing Task Force at (516) 431-1000, ext. 239, or via email at email@example.com.