Miami Beach residents frustrated by short-term rentals

Pop Goes The News — Residents of one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations are trying to put a stop to short-term rentals offered on sites like Airbnb and Homeaway.

Even though the practice is illegal in Miami Beach, Florida — where the fine for first-time offenders was recently increased to $20,000 — hundreds of short-term rentals are listed online.

The 18-square-kilometre city east of Miami is home to fewer than 100,000 people but welcomes an estimated 12 million visitors a year.

It’s not surprising that demand for hotel alternatives is high. Miami Beach is just as well known for its over-priced rooms and surly hotel workers as it is for its beaches, Art Deco architecture, and nightlife.

At Airbnb, a “beautiful condo” two blocks from the ocean is listed for $114 CAD per night — compared to $249 CAD for a room at a Marriott hotel.

But residents are increasingly frustrated with sharing buildings and neighbourhoods with tourists staying in illegally-rented units.

“It’s terrible. Beyond terrible,” said Miami Beach resident Dale Stine, who last week called for citizens to rise up.

“All of [South Beach] has been and will continue to be tainted by it and made a very undesirable destination,” he wrote on Facebook, “certainly for people looking to live here.”

Stine said the problem has “moved into the realm of the unbearable.”

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Residents who witness constantly-changing parades of strangers coming and going complain that many short-term renters are loud, messy, and generally disrespectful. Often, large groups take over apartments, condos or homes.

“I feel like I live in an hotel because almost everybody that lives in this building are using Airbnb to rent out their apt,” Don Chung shared in a Facebook discussion.

Troy Kurtz recalled one leaseholder who rented a two-bedroom unit to six young men. “They not only flooded the unit [causing] major damage, but they are on camera stealing packages outside of other units,” he said.

In most of Miami Beach, it is illegal to rent properties for a period shorter than six months and a day. Most leases also prohibit using apartments for short-term rentals.

Still, the greater Miami area is one of Airbnb’s top five markets in the U.S.

Hernan Cardeno, director of Code Compliance, told Local 10 News short-term rentals like those found on Airbnb are “a for-profit, unregulated, unpermitted, uninspected business.”

Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco said on Facebook he has been waging war on illegal rentals for some time.

“We have increased fines and I have personally sponsored legislation to arm code enforcement,” he explained.

“This summer I will be sponsoring the creation of a proactive specialized task force specifically tasked with taking down the worst offenders who are negatively impacting resident quality of life the most.”

Condo owners in Miami Beach have also warned that the popularity of short-term rentals is lowering resale values for everyone.

One condo building in Miami deactivates access cards held by short-term renters. A sign posted in one lobby reads: “If you have rented a unit for a short-term period, you are the victim of an improper, unapproved lease and will be held liable for the infraction.”

Not surprisingly, residents have the support of hotel operators in Miami and the Beaches.

Stefano Frittella, owner of the Pelican Hotel, told Curbed Miami that short-term rentals drive up the cost of rent.

“Illegal hotel operators on Airbnb are exacerbating the housing crisis that is hurting so many working families in Miami, making it harder to live and work in our communities.”

Disclosure: The author of this post is a recipient of The Key to the City of Miami Beach (1999).