Thursday, July 7, 2016

What You Need To Know About Short Term Rentals In Southold

In September 2015, Southold passed a law, Southold Town Zoning Code §280-4, prohibiting all transient rental properties, also known as short-term rentals. Thereafter, local folklore emerged about grandfathering a house around the law. Don’t believe the folklore.

As a matter of background, prior to the transient rental law, Southold homeowners were generally able to rent their homes with no minimum durational restrictions. Now, all dwellings located in Southold, except for those on Fisher’s Island, are prohibited from leasing their homes for a period of less than 14 nights. Moreover, when a property is listed on a short-term rental website, the law presumes the dwelling is being used as a transient rental property. This law does not affect the hospitality industry as applied to licensed bed and breakfasts, hotels, and motels. Therefore, if you wish to stay in Southold for a duration of less than 14 nights, you must stay at a motel, hotel, or bed and breakfast.    

As to grandfathering a house around the law, for a non-conforming use to legally continue it must:
  • Not been enlarged, altered, extended, reconstructed or restored; and 
  • Never be changed to a conforming use. 
This last requirement is why Southold residents will functionally be unable to grandfather around the Southold transient rental law. Simply stated, once a homeowner’s property is used for a conforming use that nonconforming use no longer falls under the grandfathering exception. In a short-term rental, once the rental period is over, possession is transferred back to the homeowner in a conforming use. So, the only way to get grandfathering is to always have continuous occupancy at a home by tenants without ever having a break in rentals. This functionally doesn’t happen. Sometimes the best way to challenge a law that you don’t like isn’t to find a way around it, but instead to become active in local government and have the law changed to your liking.