STONY BROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Students at one of the largest SUNY campuses are being told to beware of illegal off campus housing.
The worry is they could be risking their lives.
Tucked outside of Stony Brook University, they often stick out like sore thumbs -- run down, lawns torn up for parking -- and neighbors fed up over an explosion of illegal off campus student housing.
"Weeds where flowers used to grow are no like 4 to 5 feet tall, there is garbage all over the street, and cars, we can't get out of our driveways," Diane Sander said.
"The deplorable conditions of the homes. If they would upkeep the houses and keep them neat and clean and trimmed, we wouldn't even notice them," Bruce Sander said.
Residents count more than 300 houses owned by absentee landlords who subdivide single family homes and pack in the renters.
"We have five in this house," one student said.
Brookhaven town law prohibits more than four unrelated people under one roof.
"We've had one with over 20," Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said.
Romaine called it a serious safety problem.
Last year, a deck collapsed under the weight of 50 students at an off campus party.
The town reminded parents and students that off campus rentals must have a town permit to ensure fire and building safety.
"We don't want these unscrupulous landlords taking advantage of these kids, and destroying neighborhoods," Romaine said.
Stony Brook University only guarantees on campus housing for its first year students. New residence halls opened this year, and more are on the way.
"We only accept rental listings on our website from people who have the town of Brookhaven permit. We actually go around and pull things off that are posted and illegal," Stony Brook University, Senior Vice President, Judy Greiman said.
Neighbors said they're lacking the one tool that can verify the actual number of students living in a home; the right to inspect. They said landlords tell renters not to let fire or town inspectors inside.
The town has fined hundreds of landlords, but many find it more lucrative to pay up and keep on renting.
Stony Brook University has 17,000 undergrads including its commuter students. Its residence halls fit 10,000.
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