Thinking About Buying, Selling or Renting in Sleepy Hollow? Start with the Building Department

Back in the day that wasn’t too long ago the Village of North Tarrytown had a somewhat different or laissez faire approach to homeowners and landlords who wanted to install a new bathroom here, or a finished basement there. Although there were building codes on the books it could safely be said that enforcement to the letter of the law was not a pressing priority at Village Hall.
Fast forward to the here and now in the renamed Village of Sleepy Hollow – the economy is sluggish at best and municipalities across the nation are seeking new revenue sources through increased water rates, parking permits and meters, and in the case of Sleepy Hollow, building permits and fines. Most importantly, fines for violations of its codes.

The action to bring Sleepy Hollow up to current New York State codes has been spearheaded by Philipse Manor resident and Village Trustee Evelyn Stupel. Her “Housing Task Force” is made up of Village Attorney Janet Gandolfo, a resident of Webber Park, Building Inspector Sean McCarthy also of Webber Park and two volunteers, one of whom lives in the inner-Village and the other in the Manor. Over a 9- month period Stupel’s “Housing Task Force” reviewed all the building codes with special attention to what constituted illegal occupancy.

One should not assume that illegal occupancy is synonymous with illegal aliens and the inner-Village. Illegal occupancy could indeed mean an “au pair” or “nanny” basement apartment in Philipse or Sleepy Hollow Manor. It could also mean a two-family house being converted into a three-family house within Webber Park. In fact the three scenarios mentioned are more fact than fiction.

On North Washington, Elm, Clinton, Depeyster and College Avenue full-fledged illegal apartments in basements and attics are the illegality of choice. In both Philipse and Sleepy Hollow Manors the need to create a basement bathroom, sink and kitchen for a live-in nanny is the current rage. In Webber Park, homes, like amoebas, have regenerated and grown larger by a family.

Since June 1 (when the latest building codes went into effect) sixteen applications have been received by Sleepy Hollow’s Building Department requesting whether or not the homes for sale have a current Certificate of Occupancy or a CO as it’s referred to. The CO should tell all concerned what exactly has been approved by the Village to be within that home. How many bathrooms, bedrooms, fireplaces, decks, etc. Of the sixteen applications pending, 70% of the homes were found to be in code violation. Only five homes were cleared and had a current and approved CO.

Three of those 16 applications had outright illegal apartments. Six homes had illegal basement occupancy and two other homes were in violation for having fireplaces and bathrooms that were installed without proper permits.  

Besides fines that at best are $250/day and max out at $1500/day for code violations, sellers, buyers, renters and realtors are all affected by building and occupancy violations. There is, however, a silver lining to the grey cloud cover, and that is to simply contact Sleepy Hollow’s Building Department. Anyone selling their home will have to, regardless, and anyone buying a home will want to know all there is to know with “due diligence” about a home’s title. Renters will want to be assured they are living in a legal apartment and once again the Sleepy Hollow Building Department can provide not only invaluable assistance, but can do it in a timely manner as well.

Like a clean bill of health, a clean title for a home is grounds for happiness. It all starts and stops with Sleepy Hollow’s Building Department at 28

Beekman Avenue. Telephone 914-366-5116 or email

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento