Clarkstown’s Ban on Short-Term Rentals Leads to Homeowner’s Legal Battle Over Rights and Investments

Emma Martinez purchased a home with four bedrooms and a pool on Ilona Lane in Valley Cottage in 2018 for AirBNB purposes. However, neighbors’ complaints about frequent visitors led to a building inspection, which revealed a non-compliant overhang on a cabana. Despite obtaining a variance for this from the Clarkstown Zoning Board of Appeals, Martinez faced another challenge: the requirement of a building permit to run an AirBNB.

Her application for the permit collided with Clarkstown’s deliberations on banning short-term rentals. In March 2022, the town indeed prohibited AirBNBs in residential areas. Consequently, Martinez became involved in a legal wrangle that shifted from local courts to the U.S. District Court in White Plains. The core dispute is whether Clarkstown deliberately delayed her permit application, anticipating the incoming law.

Martinez’s lawyer, Wayne Gavioli, stated that while Martinez resolved building code violations, the town stalled her permit process, aiming to restrict AirBNBs. In December 2020, Clarkstown implemented short-term rental permit requirements, but by March 2022, a new law banned rentals shorter than 29 days in residential zones. Critics of this ban associate short-term rentals with disruptive behavior, while others highlight their potential positive contributions to the community.

Martinez sued Clarkstown in May 2022, seeking a permit, continued short-term rental rights, and $2 million in damages, arguing her investment was made under the then-legal parameters. She claimed repeated delays in her application process, suspecting the town’s intention to change the zoning laws.

After the town’s ban, Martinez’s lawyer contended that her rights, as mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, were violated, referencing the 5th and 14th Amendments. Clarkstown transferred the case to federal court and maintains that Martinez can still utilize her property in numerous ways. They argue she never had explicit rights for short-term rentals and that the rental ban is within their legislative powers. The upcoming months will see further legal developments.

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