Editorial: It had to come to this on transient rental housing

10/24/2013 7:00 AM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Waterfront homes in Jamesport along the bay.

For a weekend trip or even just one night, those wanting to stay in Riverhead Town have options that go beyond a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast. Just visit websites like homeaway.com and VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner) to see what’s out there.

While renting private homes for short stays has long been a normal practice in town, neighbors have complained about living near these veritable hotels for perhaps just as long. They’ve had to deal with the raucous bachelor, bachelorette and wedding after-parties that come with them.

Such transient rental properties not only disturb neighborhoods but cost the state and county money as well. The owners of these homes often skirt tax laws, town officials say, by failing to pay the sales and hospitality taxes assessed hotels and motels. And the state has been acting through local municipalities to crack down on non-business operators who don’t acknowledge or observe rules that govern the legitimate innkeepers they compete against.

Of course, for every rowdy group of weekend visitors, there are probably dozens of other short-term renters who are well behaved and well meaning — and their money likely translates to a net gain for the overall local economy. So in some ways, it’s a shame a few bad apples are ruining what could be an otherwise quiet, win-win-win for renters, homeowners and the economy.

But this is a problem that has come up repeatedly for years, and it’s a good thing the Riverhead Town Board has finally done something about it, in the form of a local law passed last week that would require a minimum of 29 days for such residential rentals.

To prove the law is more than election-year pandering, Town Board members must make sure the rules get enforced. Neighbors who don’t see relief from these so-called party houses after Election Day should make their voices heard through letters to this newspaper or letters and calls to Town Hall holding officials accountable.

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