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Friday, December 19, 2014
Village News
Illegal housing on Valley Stream's radar
Provided photo
A house that caught fire on Cedar Street in July had an illegal apartment, according to Valley Stream officials.

A fire at a Cedar Street home in July left two families homeless, but according to village officials, one of those families should not have been living there. The property owner was cited for renting out an illegal apartment in the basement.

In early October, fire gutted a home on Viola Street. While officials determined that it was being used as a one-family home, as intended, that wasn’t the case for a house next door. When firefighters went in to check carbon monoxide levels to determine whether it would be safe for the occupants to return, they found three apartments in what should have been a single-family home. That landlord, too, was issued summonses.

After tenants complained about the living conditions at building on Gold Street, Valley Stream launched an investigation. According to village officials, the building, consisting of two connected two-family homes, was found to have 10 apartments instead of the four that were approved.

These are examples of a decades-old problem in the village — illegal apartments. “We have nothing against multiple dwellings,” said Mayor Ed Fare, citing several housing developments under construction in Valley Stream. “We have a problem with illegal multiple dwellings. It’s a safety issue.”

Village Code Enforcement officials are tipped off to illegal apartments in a variety of ways. Fires are one way, but they are relatively rare occurrences. More often, firefighters are called to a home for medical assistance and discover what they believe to be an illegal dwelling. Police officers often share information with the Code Enforcement department after visiting a home to deal with a landlord-tenant or domestic dispute. Even more common, a neighbor calls the village to report a suspected illegal dwelling.

Frank Roca, the village’s fire inspector, said that illegal apartments create obvious dangers. An extra housing unit puts a strain on a home’s electrical service, increasing the risk of a fire. Hot plates and microwaves are often used in places they don’t belong, and illegal apartments often lack smoke detectors, Roca said.

No basement apartments

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