Home News Local News Greenport trustees seek to crack down on ‘deadbeat’ landlords, protect tenants

Greenport trustees seek to crack down on ‘deadbeat’ landlords, protect tenants

Two Greenport trustees plan to crack down on deadbeat landlords and overcrowded and unsafe housing conditions in the village.

According to their monthly report, Trustees Doug Roberts and Jack Martilotta said with winter fast approaching, their aim is to enforce codes to protect tenants from absentee landlords.

To that end, they hope to discuss progress on hiring an additional staff member in the building department.

In addition, the trustees say, the village’s code enforcement officer and building inspector should be directed to focus on housing safety, including issues such as overcrowding, safe means of egress, ensuring children are living in safe spaces, and potential fire hazards.

Roberts and Martilotta said they hope to work with the village building department and Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, who serves as liaison to the Greenport Latino community, to set up a tenant housing safety hot line with bilingual support that will feed information directly to the building department from tenants and neighbors.

In addition, the trustees said they hope to “ensure that the village attorney has resources at his disposal to pursue rapid judgments against land lords who put tenants in harm’s way.

“We believe village residents have spoken plainly and clearly on this topic: They are tired of a lack of enforcement of housing safety,” Roberts said. “From the family of renters I met during the campaign who went days without heat during a brutal winter, to the neighbors on 5th Avenue who believe their block is packed to the gills with people, everybody knows we’ve got safety concerns around the village. This is not a challenge unique to Greenport by any means, but we may be uniquely positioned to build compassionate and effective solutions.”.


For years, Roberts said code enforcement efforts in the village target “things that are just not important” such as the size of signage, “a little mess in somebody’s front yard,” or a yard sale. While they are violations, Roberts said there are children living in unsafe conditions.

The village, he said, has a rental permit law that is meant to address the housing safety issue, but the resources have yet to be located to implement its first, and onerous, step of permit registration.

“We are making a stand on behalf of what really matters in our community — the safety and well-being of the people who live here — and asking our village administrators to direct the code enforcement efforts as such.”

The review, the trustees said, would also include a look at permitting fees and waivers, and a discussion of whether the revenue from long-term rental permits is significant enough to make a difference in enforcement efforts. The idea of whether or not financial incentives should be given to landlords who rent to year-round residents is also up for consideration, they said.

Roberts added, “This effort needs to be about landlord accountability. We are not advocating that tenants be forcibly removed from their homes. We want to send a clear message to rental property owners that if you plan to build a rental business in our village, you will follow the laws and you will put a safe roof over the heads of our kids. Since taking office we have been building a partnership with the village board of trustees’ liaison to the Latino community, Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Apostolate, to help support this effort to keep families safe from deadbeat landlords.”