As election season winds down, crack down on illegal housing heats up

Several town and village building inspectors seek to crack down on buildings with code violations
(By Kathy Kahn)

Clarkstown holds seminar on Housing and Zoning enforcement

BY KATHY KAHN

It’s been a vexing problem for parts of Rockland County: stopping the illegal use of properties. Clarkstown hosted an information session on October 19 to help those combating the problem.

The seminar at the Fire Training Center in Pomona gave many local town and village code enforcement officers the tools to go after illegal housing, whether it is multiple tenants in a single family home or private/ commercial buildings converted for other use without a permit or variance. Clarkstown’s Housing and Zoning Enforcement forum gave dozens of inspectors tools to use when they are confronted with illegal housing issues, which can put lives in danger and undermine neighborhoods.

“We all need to work together in getting rid of slumlords in Clarkstown and across the county,” Supervisor George Hoehmann said.

More than one mailbox is tip-off a single family home has been converted (Photo provided)

County Executive Ed Day encouraged building and fire code inspectors to take advantage of the Rockland Housing Task Force. “If occupants are in an illegal situation, you are all protecting us from what’s going on right now,” Day said.

Like many other municipalities, Clarkstown is at a flashpoint. Deputy Town Attorney Leslie Kahn laid out the steps in a Power Point presentation on how to successfully prosecute a case step-by-step against a building owner.

“In 2016, we started a new Code Compliance Unit to address this illegal housing scourge,” she said. “If a Code Compliance Officer comes across a situation that needs addressing, gather the information and present it to your local court showing probable cause to obtain a search warrant. That warrant will allow you to gather the necessary proof to prosecute.”

Some signs of suspicious misuse of housing are numerous mailboxes, too many satellite dishes, several cars parked in the driveway of a single family home or a large amount of people coming and going from a dwelling. “One problem we face is [just] one LLC (limited liability corporation) can own several homes and cut them into apartments,” Kahn explained. “We are tracking down on these LLC owners to prosecute them.”

“The Rockland County Clerk’s office has a website where you can check land record and search to print out deeds,” she continued. “Police departments are also a wealth of information for a variety of complaints. Many times, tenants are not living in a great situation and are willing to cooperate. We must be proactive in addressing this issue. There are many slumlords in this county.”

Today’s mantra, “If you see something, say something,” also applies to illegal housing.  Call your local town or village hall and speak to its Code Enforcement officer or put a grievance in writing to your municipality if you spot something amiss in your neighborhood.