Sleepy Hollow’s concerted effort to identify and prosecute landlords guilty of housing code violations is paying off. Since trustees created the village’s first Housing Court two years ago, more than $136,000 in fines have been collected, and many neglected buildings are now in the hands of new owners who are investing time and money to bring the properties up-to-code.
“The only thing people understand is to haul them into court and make them pay,” said Sleepy Hollow Trustee Evelyn Stupel, who heads the Safe Housing Committee. “It’s finally beginning to sink in that if you violate the housing code, you will be caught, you will be prosecuted and you will pay.”
The owner of a two-family house at 279 North Washington Street paid nearly $8,000 in fines when it was discovered that the building had been illegally subdivided into five apartments. The illegal apartments in the basement, attic and above the garage were vacated. The house is currently on the market for $479,000.
Since Sleepy Hollow began prohibiting the sale of properties with code violations in 2010, many owners are choosing to walk away from their mortgages and letting the banks repossess, rather than bring their buildings up-to-code.
The owner of 170 Cortlandt Street borrowed more than $400,000 from the bank to make improvements. The owner had been cited for operating an unlicensed laundromat on the first floor and two illegal apartments on the upper floor.
The building is now vacant and the owner, Turquino Corp., was due in court October 26. Similarly, the building at 86 Beekman, owned by Taylor Holding Corp., is now in foreclosure after two illegal apartments were discovered and the first floor food establishment abandoned with food left to rot.
“The banks want to get rid of these properties and you frequently end up with a new owner who wants to do a good job and take care of the property,” said Stupel.
A Victorian house at 51 Pocantico Street is undergoing an extensive renovation after the previous owner abandoned the property.
“He was cited for having “weeds five feet tall,” so he put weed killer on the lawn creating a “grassy, weedy kind of fire hazard,” said Stupel. The property was repossessed by the bank and sold in the low $200,000s to a new owner who is creating four legal apartments.
Sleepy Hollow Housing Court is held every third Thursday at village Hall at 3 p.m.