Illegal housing on Valley Stream's radar
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While the court will typically order a landlord to remove the illegal apartment, Bogle said he will allow a little time for the tenant to find a new place to live. Tenants often don’t know that their apartment is illegal, officials said.
A real estate agent who knowingly markets a single-family house as a multiple-family dwelling can also face charges, Bogle said. Facilitating an illegal apartment is against the law, and the justice said he isn’t afraid to hit a real estate agent with a large fine because “they should know better.” In the past, he has also reported brokers to the New York Board of Realtors after a case was settled.
Fare noted that one of the reasons the village is tough on illegal apartments is because they put a strain on village services. An illegally subdivided house is taxed as a one-family home, yet there are two or more families using those services.
Perception in the village
Costanzo said that one factor that works in the village’s favor is that Valley Stream has a reputation for being tough on illegal apartments. The village acts on every tip, he said, even if it’s an anonymous one.
So far this year, the village has issued summonses at 58 different properties. Officials have investigated perhaps twice as many complaints, Costanzo estimated, but many prove to be unfounded.
It is hard to “legalize” an illegal apartment in Valley Stream, he said. The Board of Zoning Appeals is skeptical about doing that in a residential zone, he said, because it would set a precedent that would negatively impact the character of the village’s neighborhoods.
According to village code, two rooms of a one-family home can be rented out to boarders. In a two-family home, each family can rent to one boarder. In those circumstances, however, each dwelling may have only one kitchen.
Village officials say that all of these regulations are in place to protect residents and to maintain the community’s suburban character. “The safety of our residents,” Fare said, “is paramount.”