Share House ‘Brats’ Disturb In the Dunes

‘Last two years have been pure hell,’ says neighbor

    Amagansett residents told tales to the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday about groups sharing summer rentals in their once-peaceful beachside neighborhood, and pleaded for the laws against “groupers” to be enforced.

    Diana Walker used to live in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan but now lives in the Amagansett dunes, quite a contrast, she told the board. “But imagine my surprise,” she said, describing a scene outside her yard, with a young man urinating on her hedge and vomiting. She took care of the situation with a well-aimed hose, she said, and later, “I received flowers and a note of contrition,” with an accompanying explanation that the offender had just passed the bar exam — apparently an occasion to get roaring drunk.

    Ms. Walker said that the “brats” she found on her lawn were from a nearby share house. “The landlord should be fined,” she said, “and the broker should lose their license.” As for the town, she said, it had a “history of condoning bratty behavior in the name of commerce.”

    “It must stop. It will stop. Action will be taken,” Ms. Walker said.

    June O’Reilly, a neighbor in the dunes, has already acted. Besides lodging complaints with the town code enforcers and police about the group house next door, she has hired a lawyer to mount a civil suit, and has taken the license plate numbers and identifying information on a dozen or so cars that park at the property in question every weekend.

    “The last two years have been pure hell,” Ms. O’Reilly, a dentist who practices at her residence, told the board, thanks to the nearby family that has rented its house “to a group of 11 to 14 20-something-year-olds.”

    “They party from 2:30 to 5 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night, and then they sleep it off,” she said. “So when the code enforcer comes by [in the daylight hours], all is quiet.”

    “I have complained and complained,” said Ms. O’Reilly.

    The town code says that single-family houses may not be shared by more than four unrelated people. The code also prohibits partial occupancy or rental, “excessive turnover” of tenancies, the selling of shares or rights to occupy a house on particular days or dates, and the overcrowding of bedrooms, with the number of occupants allowed based on square footage.

    “This is a townwide problem that certainly seems to have escalated this year,” Patrick Gunn, the head of the town’s Division of Public Safety, said in an e-mail yesterday. “The Ordinance Enforcement Department takes this problem very seriously and is working within its means to address the complaints that come in.” The department, he said, “is working closely with the police department this summer in an effort to contain these situations.”

    Ms. O’Reilly said she “partially blame[s]” the real estate agent who leased the property to the same group for a second year, even while aware of last summer’s problems. She named the broker and the agency.

    “I really believe that if the town puts stress on this owner and the [ . . . ] real estate agency, something will be done,” she said.

    According to the speakers at Tuesday’s meeting, it often happens that just one or two people sign a rental lease, but then they go on to sell shares to numerous others to stay in the house for varying periods of time.    

    Mr. Gunn wrote in his e-mail that he was “encouraged” by discussion at the meeting about “holding realtors more accountable for these situations.”

    “Clearly, current enforcement efforts alone are not stopping the problem,” he wrote, “so I am hopeful that some legislative steps can be taken to make a more effective deterrent to landlords, as well as any realtors who are feeding this problem.”

    “The share houses are a real big problem,” Rona Klopman, the president of the Amagansett East homeowners association, told the town board. Members of the group complain about litter, illegal parking, excessive noise, overcrowded houses, public intoxication, and public urination, she said. “There has to be more code enforcement at night,” Ms. Klopman said.

“You call code enforcement and nobody comes.”

    According to Mr. Gunn, residents with complaints should call the police after hours and on weekends, when the administrative office of the Ordinance Enforcement Department is closed.

    Scott Rodriguez, a senior ordinance inspector, is on duty for overnight shifts on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, he said, and two of the department’s four full-time officers work weekend days. Mr. Rodriguez is in “constant contact” with the police during his shifts, said Mr. Gunn, adding that he “responds to share house and house party complaints throughout the night, but is spread very thin,” as complaints come in after hours from all hamlets in the town.

    Mr. Rodriguez assigns further investigation of alleged share houses to daytime inspectors, Mr. Gunn said. During working hours, he encouraged the public to submit a standard complaint form at the Ordinance Enforcement Department office. 

    Noise complaints, Mr. Gunn noted, are handled exclusively by the police, and noise violation charges associated with share house complaints are routinely filed by the police. Several share house cases are currently in town justice court, he said, and “multiple investigations are ongoing.”

    Share house cases, he wrote, “are often difficult and labor-intensive to establish and prosecute,” as “access to these houses is often denied and tenants and their guests have become more savvy in denying access and answering questions. It is extremely difficult to obtain a copy of the lease, establish who is the actual tenant or tenants, and who is a guest. When a case is submitted to the Justice Court, it has been the policy of the department to charge both the tenant and the landlord initially and until compliance or accountability can be achieved.”

    “It’s a business,” Ms. Klopman told the town board on Tuesday. She read from an online ad for shares in a summer house that provided pricing, details, and policies, along with a photo of nearby Indian Wells beach. The ad offered half-shares and quarter-shares, along with customized packages of weekends, and a discount if a renter paid by a certain date. Her recitation prompted laughs from members of the audience at Town Hall. “It’s not laughable,” Ms. Klopman commented. “Because the community is affected by it.”

    Carl Hillmann, another Amagansett resident, said that though he is “lucky enough not to be a victim of a nearby share house,” he “see[s] the effects every day, and I hear all the anecdotes, and it’s nonstop. It’s obvious in the last few years it’s gotten much worse, and it’s not getting any better.”

    The residents addressed the board during the public comment section of  its work session this week, and their comments were not further discussed during the meeting. The board did, however, talk about the possibility of establishing a rental registry, which could assist in housing code enforcement efforts, as well as other issues regarding the proper use of residential properties. Those discussions are reported on separately in today’s Star.


Comments

Thank you so much for writing this article, and thank you to Ms. Walker and Ms. Oreilly for going on the record with these complaints. Also, a special thanks to Rona Klopman who is a tireless defender of our beautiful neighborhood. Every single weekend I see the effects of the Share Housers on our beach, with beer cans, liquor bottles and trash left strewn across the sand. Late the next day I often see packs of 2 dozen 20-something year olds lounging around in the same general area where the trash was the night before, drinking the same brand of beer as the cans I found on the sand, playing loud radios, throwing foot balls right over the chairs and umbrellas of other beach users, and generally behaving in anti-social ways that are very much at odds with peaceful vibe of our neighborhood. Honestly, it seems to get worse each year, and I'm really hoping the idea of holding real estate brokers accountable for these leases will have an impact. This is simply too nice an area to allow it to be overrun by loud, drunken outsiders who have no investment whatsoever in the community.
Sounds like most folks at the code enforcement office work banker's hours. I see this problem all over East Hampton Town. Either they are not doing their job, or told not to. A case file should be made on ANY complaint that comes into that office. The complainant should be kept imformed of all action taken in each case. The landlord and real estate sales person are also at fault if they knowingly allow this. It's a bad situation that can be corrected.
I am glad this issue is getting more traction and that townspeople are starting to talk about the various ways laws can be implemented and enforced to crack down on the excessive partiers who have no regard for this community. What strikes me as crazy is that due to the over crowding and congestion, by transient share house visitors, the town is actually considering ruining wetlands and the natural beauty that we residents value, in order to build more roads and beach parking spaces (at Indian Wells and Napeaague) for those who couldn't care less about our community. Most of these young adults don't care that they are partying in Amagansett per se, they could be partying and getting drunk anywhere! Anyone who is passing the Bar Exam for example ought to be smart and respectful enough to not pee on someone else's property. Furthermore, owners, leasing brokers, and occupants of share houses should all be heavily fined. The owners who rent out their houses to "shares" obviously don't care about the environment here either, most are simply real estate speculators. Clean up your act Amagansett / East Hampton and lets restore this town to its previous cache and glory!
How I sympathize with Ms. Walker having been cursed by share houses on and off for years in my neighborhood. I am appalled at the lack of response to the quality of life issue. I have summered in East Hampton for almost 50 years and what has become of this area is appalling. I am dumbfounded about the lack of code enforcement in this town. It does not take a brain surgeon to figure out that the lack of code enforcement about share houses has helped contribute to the population explosion in the summer. Last summer I called the police every Friday and Saturday night as I was woken up by the share house next to me. Truthfully I don't even know if the police ever showed up. One response from the police department was "am I sure that there is noise?" When I spoke to the owners of the house who told us when they bought the house that they could not afford it without renting it out I was called a liar and the owner literally ran away. Only a guilty man runs. The rental ad for this year said "families" only. Well it is a share house again and I have been up since 4:00AM because they have left their dog outside all night. Until the realtors, owners and renters are held responsible and a punitive action is taken this will go on and on. Thank you to the town governments of the east end for maintaining our "quality of life" of the good tax paying citizens of your towns. Maybe you will do something when the share house is next to you.