At last week's Nanuet Civic Association meeting, Joel Epstein, Clarkstown Code Enforcement Officer, was invited to answer questions about “rentals” and conversions of single family houses.
Epstein started with the question of, ‘what is permitted and what is illegal?’
“It’s not illegal to rent your house or to be an absentee owner as long as it constitutes as a single-family house,” he said, adding that Nanuet also happens to have a lot of legal 2-family houses “that date back … to the 1940s."
An earlier Patch article looked at Epstein's explanations on what constitutes as a single-family home and how it's enforced.
Many had questions about parking issues. There is a street parking restriction from November – April.
“It’s not just snow storms, when the highway department sees a problem in the street, they’ll call the police,” said Epstein.
If parking becomes a traffic nuisance or hazard, even if it’s not between November and April, residents can call the police, he added.
“They’ll give a warning or even write a ticket and that sends the message that you have to use your driveway.”
“With the cars overnight during a snow storm, if a plow needs to plow and there’s a problem, he knows all he has to do is call the police department,” said Clarkstown Police Officer Mark Hamilla. “We’ll tow that car, we have no problem doing it and have no problem writing tickets.”
One person asked what the code was regarding using the lawn for parking.
“You’re not allowed to park on a lawn. That’s not a zoning violation. That’s a property maintenance violation,” said Epstein. He added that the code requires cars to be parked on “what is called a dustless surface. It doesn’t mean your driveway has to be paved, it can gravel or anything, but it can’t be grass.”
He added that just because there are a lot of cars on the street or spilling over to the lawn, it doesn’t mean that there is a problem with over occupancy or illegal conversions.
“You would need to expand your driveway if you have 6-8 kids and they become teenagers and there are 10 cars,” he said as an example. To answer another question, he said that there is not a restriction on the number of driveways a person can have.
“Clarkstown does not restrict what you do with your lot. You can pave your entire lot. However, you’re only allowed a 20-ft curb cut. A lot of people violate that,” said Epstein. He added that there are restrictions, such as the driveway’s distance to an intersection. Also, it’s mostly an issue that the highway department deals with
In order to widen the driveway opening you need a road-opening permit from the highway department.
“If you widen your driveway opening too much, it creates traffic issue. It’s the same permit you would need if you wanted a circular driveway, because that would be a second curb cut.”
Also, even though a person can’t widen a curb cut, “it can be a bottleneck where you can pull into your driveway and the whole rest of it is asphalt.”
Also, the town is trying to reduce impervious surfaces, which has to do with modern storm water regulation.
“In commercial site plans, we’re trying to reduce the amount of impervious surface, meaning it’s not good to just pave your whole lot,” said Epstein.
Another resident asked how many unregistered cars can a home have.
“The code allows for one unlicensed vehicle.”
There’s a junk yard provision that defines a junk yard as two or more unlicensed vehicles on your lot for a certain number of days. “In the residential zone, it’s 60 days and in a commercial zone, I think it’s 30 days.”
Epstein said that how enforcement works is that he would need to inspect the vehicles to verify that they are unregistered and then come back after 60 days to see if they’ve removed it.
“The reason you’re allowed one unlicensed vehicle is because it could be your classic vehicle that you work on or your son/daughter is in college and you took the plates off while they’re away. If there’s one unlicensed vehicle and it’s got four flat tires or broken windows or is full of junk, that’s a property maintenance violation. That’s a nuisance or an eyesore.”
He added that he usually gives an offer that the owner can’t refuse ”like would you like to (go in front of a judge) or get rid of the car? If he moves the car around the block or moves it and brings it back a week later … it can become a bit like cat and mouse.”
Epstein said that there’s a zoning ordinance that dates back to the 1930s that “permits boarders, up to three, in a single-family home.”
“It’s not a common practice today, but if you have an extra bedroom and you needed help with property taxes or your mortgage, you can have a college student (as a boarder). You would take your meals together, it’s not a separate dwelling unit. They’re paying rent, so to speak, but they’re not renting a separate dwelling unit.”
You can’t rent rooms to boarders if you don’t live there, “but u can have up to three boarders if you do live there. They don’t have to know each other but they have to take their meals together and live together.”
“Single-room occupancy is the type of room with a padlock on the door, and that’s not allowed. What determines that is an interior inspection.”