Friday, October 20, 2006

Illegal Housing Equals Higher Taxes In Nassau County

Homeowners Who Rent Out Illegal Apartments In Single-Family Homes To See Huge Tax Increase As Properties Are Reclassified As Commercial

From the pages of the East Meadow Herald:

Taking on illegal housing

By Hector Flores

This month, property owners who are suspected of illegally renting their divided homes as boarding houses are in for a shock when they open their monthly school tax bills and discover that their taxes have nearly tripled.

For years, Helen Meittinis, president of the Community Association of Stewart Avenue in Salisbury, has kept the issue of illegal housing at the forefront of her community's concerns. Now, thanks to Nassau County Assessor Harvey Levinson, combating illegal housing has been made easier through the reclassification of illegally altered homes from residential to commercial, dramatically raising their property taxes.

Levinson said that the change in classification now requires property owners who rent parts of their houses to pay two and a half times more school property taxes than they once did. "The October 2006 school tax bill reflects the first increases in [school] property taxes that will have to be paid by 13 property owners who were reclassified in 2004," Levinson said. "For two Westbury homeowners, their [school] property tax obligation will increase from $8,768 paid in 2005-06 to $26,277 in 2006-07."

A total of 24 properties have been reclassified from residential to commercial in East Meadow, Elmont, Franklin Square, Garden City, Long Beach, Roosevelt, Plainview and Westbury. According to Levinson¹s office, the targeted property in East Meadow, on Post Street, faces a school property tax increase from $8,330 to $22,393.

This is good news for Meittinis, who hopes that it will help deter illegal housing in her area. "I give [Levinson] a lot of credit for doing this," she said. "He spent his career in the district attorney's office and knows the law, and he knows what is hurting the people in Nassau County."

Meittinis added that a community suffers when a landlord converts a home into a boarding house. "These illegal properties impact services to the taxpayers and we carry the load," she said. Leon Campo, deputy superintendent of the East Meadow School District, agreed. "Illegal housing affects our schools," he said. "If you have multiple dwellings, it will make our taxes go up because children from these illegal residences attend the school district without contributing to the school tax base."

Campo added that the district spends, on average, approximately $12,500 per child enrolled in school, and this would increase if more illegal dwellings were to spring up in the district. Susie Trenkle, spokeswoman for the Town of Hempstead, said that the town supports Levinson's initiative if it helps curtail illegal housing. “Particularly in those cases where a house owner has attempted to turn a single-family home into a boarding house, it is a good thing,” Trenkle said. “It provides us with one more tool to combat illegal housing.”

Other initiatives to combat illegal housing, proposed by Levinson to the Nassau grand jury investigating illegal housing on Dec. 15, 2005, include:

- Amending town, city and village codes to permit penalties for illegal housing, which would include fines against landlords of two times the monthly rent collected.
- Reporting violators to the Internal Revenue Service for further action, since rents are usually collected in cash.
- Informing insurance companies, since most policies are written for single-family use.
- Amending landlord/tenant petitions filed in Nassau County Court to include affirmations of apartments' legal status.
- Denying back rent payments to landlords of illegal apartments.
- Requiring the Long Island Power Authority to create a form on which homeowners would explain the placing of additional meters. Once the form was received by the utility, it would be forwarded to the town for further investigation.
- Asking sanitation workers to identify houses with consistently large amounts of garbage.
- Twenty-four-hour on-call inspection by town building inspectors.
- Use of emergency response reports by fire departments and police precincts to report unsafe living conditions.
- Empowering the fire marshal with the authority to close down illegal boarding and rooming houses.

Comments about this story? HFlores@liherald or (516) 569-4000 ext. 283.

©Herald Community 2006
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What? The Town of Hempstead showing support, and the Communications office saying nice things about Harvey Levinson, Tax Assessor? Now we know for sure its not an election year at Town Hall!

2 comments:

  1. WHY IS ONLY 1 PERSON WORKING ON ILLEGAL HOUSING CONCERNS? Thank God Harvey Levinson has done something even though we have been told this is the Towns problem. Speaking about the town. Where is the town on this issue? Shouldn't Kate come up with a plan? I guess you really can't send out a glossy flier with a smiling Kate while dealing with illegal housing. But than again according to the town; We are living in 1939. Shouldn't Kate come out to see how we are living in 2006? A far cry from 1939.

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  2. It's funny how everyone is so against these illegal apartments, but no one bothers to ask why they exist... There is a serious lack of affordable housing here in Nassau County! Young people either have to live with their parents until they have established themselves well enough to buy a house or leave the area. With all the money spent on education here, you'd think the county would want to do all it can to make sure the students they've spent all that money on stay in the area and contribute something back to the community. Another case of treating the symptoms instead of curing the disease.

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