Brookhaven threatens $6K fine, 6 months in jail for short-term rentals 

Suffolk County town cracking down in response to loud parties

Fines, Jail for Illegal Airbnb, VRBO Rentals in Brookhaven
Brookhaven Councilperson Dan Panico and Airbnb's Brian Chesky (Town of Brookhaven, Getty)

The steady drumbeat of bad news on Long Island for Airbnb and its hosts shows few signs of abating.

Brookhaven, the largest town in Suffolk County, is adopting fines and penalties for illegal short-term rentals, Newsday reported. The town board voted unanimously on the measure, which will penalize those who rent their homes for fewer than four weeks at a time, as well as those who separately rent their swimming pools.

Rentals for shorter than four weeks were already against town rules, but enforcement was spotty and penalties were vague.

Next year, that will change. For first-time violations, fines will range from $500 to $4,000 and can include up to 15 days in jail. A second offense could lead to fines between $1,000 and $6,000, and six months in jail.

Some Fire Island communities are excluded from the law because of the prevalence of rental housing.

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Landlords opposed the changes, seeing them as likely to depress rental income. But Council member Dan Panico, who will become the town supervisor next month, said short-term rentals to ragers were a significant cause of complaints from neighbors.

A spokesperson for Airbnb said the company would work with hosts to “help them understand the new local rules.”

Those rules could change quickly, but in the company’s favor, for a change: Panico is eyeing reducing the minimum rental to two weeks, a more common threshold across Long Island. A hearing on that will be held early next year.

Short-term rental companies such as Airbnb and VRBO are facing numerous challenges on Long Island as communities crack down on leasing homes for short stays. On the North Fork, towns and villages are stepping up enforcement against owners who allow guests to stay for fewer than 14 days. Some officials are employing new software and artificial intelligence to police online listings or collect rental taxes.

Holden Walter-Warner

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