Hempstead officials announce restrictions to crack down on illegal rentals following fatal fire
Village of Hempstead officials announced new resources dedicated to cracking down on illegal rental properties.
The push for stricter enforcement comes over two weeks after an 81-year-old man was killed in a fire in an illegal basement apartment earlier this month.
During a press conference Monday, Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. announced a special prosecutor will litigate building violations related to overcrowding. Two complaint investigators will look into reports of overcrowding in the village as well.
"We want to make sure that all of our residents can live in safe conditions,” said Hobbs. “We want to address what I like to call predatory landlords that put profits before the safety of people."
The crackdown is meant to keep residents safe heading into the winter months.
"As the months get colder, we know that we're going to have to deal with people that's going to be using space heaters,” said Hobbs. “We want to make sure that, in these situations, that they're living in safe environments.”
Hempstead Fire Dept. 3rd Assistant Chief Chris Fitzroy fire officials say these illegal dwellings usually lack smoke detectors and another sign can be found on doors in the units.
"They'll put locks on the doors. So the bedrooms would have locks that we could only be accessed from the outside,” said Fitzroy.
Hobbs says the ability to find and prosecute wrongdoers relies on input and reporting from the community.
"There are some landlords that take advantage of the fact that people may not be documented and cause them to live in conditions that is not conducive,” said Hobbs. “And so we want to make it clear that we're not going after the residents, we're going after the homeowners."
Those found in violation of village rental codes could face fines and jail time. The punishment for a first offense is a fine between $3,000 to $6,000 or up to 15 days in jail. The punishment for a second offense is a fine between $6,000 to $12,000 or up to 15 days in jail.