We were surprised to read recently that New York City prohibits rentals of fewer than 30 days. This is in an effort to keep apartments from being turned into de facto hotels and to protect the interests of neighbors and neighborhoods. Contrast that with East Hampton Town’s confusing regulations, which allow four sub-two-week rentals a year, provided that only two are in the same six-month period and that they are registered with the town clerk’s office.
While these rules might have made sense to those drafting them, in the real world they have negligible impact. Airbnb, the leading online short-term booking site, recently showed hundreds of nightly availabilities, few of which included East Hampton’s required registry number. Many of these boasted space for multiple guests, implying arrangements that could exceed the townwide limit of four unrelated adults per house. “My place is good for couples, families (with kids), and big groups,” the owner of a Montauk house that could sleep as many as 14 people boasted.
From appearances, the town is not paying enough attention. There are one or two high-profile share house busts each summer, sure. But routine flouting of the law by homeowners who market their properties to groups or for high-turnover short stays needs greater focus.
Residents’ complaints during summer are largely about overcrowding. Until the town gets serious about enforcing single-family residence rules nothing is going to change.