The house at 299 Lyon St. has been abandoned for seven years, neighbors say. Nassau County police boarded up the house to prevent squatters from illegally occupying the house, and Village of Valley Stream Department of Public Works employees have mowed the lawn and shoveled snow from the sidewalk in front of the house.
To prevent more houses from becoming abandoned, the Village of Valley Stream started a rental registry program last year to hold landlords accountable for the maintenance of their properties. Since then, a total of 88 landlords have enrolled in the program. “Now we know who they are, so we know who to contact if there is an issue,” said Building Superintendent Tom McAleer.
Under the program, absentee landlords of single-family, two-family and townhouse properties (those with separate entrances) had to obtain rental permits from the building department in October The permits, which cost $400, are good for two years, at which time a landlord must re-apply.
The law also grants village officials the authority to enter a rental property with the consent of the owner or property manager if it is unoccupied, or with the consent of tenants when occupied. The village can get a search warrant for any property when it is denied access.
“The 88 landlords we’ve had no problems with,” said Mayor Ed Fare.
Not every landlord submitted an application, however. Many of the letters about the program were returned to the village due to incorrect addresses. To get those absentee landlords’ information, village officials are speaking with tenants to see if they know another address. Once the village obtains that data, officials will send out more letters about the program, including a new deadline.
Village officials find out about absentee landlords from neighbors’ complaints, according to Fare, who said that each month the Building Department receives two or three of these. Fare said that properties with absentee landlords, which could become “zombie properties” if not maintained, are easily identifiable because their lawns are overgrown.
When the Building Department finds out about an abandoned property, its employees cut the lawn and bill the landlord for the work. If the landlord does not pay the bill, the money owed is transferred to the landlord’s tax bill. If the landlord does not pay taxes, a lien would be applied to the house.
McAleer said that he did not know yet whether the program has helped eliminate zombie properties.
Fare said that the program might be modified in the future if necessary, and said that village officials would keep residents informed about the program.