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Town Board considers code change to require updated CO’s for real estate transactions

The Riverhead Town Board is considering a code change to mandate an updated certificate of occupancy be required “upon the sale or transfer of any improved real property including a condominium.”

Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said it would be meant to address situations where someone buys a home, only to learn years later their basement is not legal, as an example.

“Initially it’ll be a hurdle for us because we’re going to have to change people’s mindsets,” he said. “It’s something additional that they’re going to have to do. But it does address those problems down the road.”

The Town Board will schedule a public hearing on the code change, likely for November.

Mr. Kozakiewicz said the CO requirement mirrors a code currently in place for the Village of Westhampton Beach.

“The real estate community there has signed on to it and they’re fully supportive of it,” he said.

There’s no similar code in Southold Town or Southampton Town, he said. Southampton Town held a public hearing to propose the change and elected not to do it.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said changes are being made to people’s homes that the town is not aware of and pointed to problems with overcrowded homes.

“For the safety of the residents and the people involved, I think it’s a small price to pay,” she said.

Councilwoman Catherine Kent said there were varying opinions on the topic in code committee, so she thought it should be discussed among the Town Board.

Mr. Kozakiewicz said it would result in more work for the building department.

“I’m not sure how it’ll work in practice, whether we’ll be chasing people after the closing,” he said.

Ms. Kozakiewicz questioned whether the would be a new fee for an updated CO. There’s currently a fee for an initial CO application or to receive a duplicate CO, he said.

The way CO’s have typically been done in the past, not only in Riverhead Town, have been lacking specifics, said Jeff Murphree, the town’s building and planning administrator.

“The initial CO was very generic in the old days,” he said. “I’ve been impressing and emphatic that the CO’s need to be detailed and spelling out exactly what is on that property and what they’re allowed to do.”

The proposed change reads that “it shall be unlawful to use or occupy any improved real property after title has been transferred without first
obtaining an updated certificate of occupancy.”