Airbnb revelers at million-dollar Tierra Verde mansion spark complaints

Even at $999 a night, Robert Lauby had no trouble finding renters for the 5,500-square-foot waterfront home in Tierra Verde that he listed on the popular Airbnb website.

“Seriously, this was the best Airbnb experience ever!” exclaimed a group of guests, who shared the five-bedroom, five-bathroom mansion in March. “Great experience in Saint Petersburg!” enthuse the “eight guys”. who rented in May.

They also praised Lauby, who describes himself on Airbnb as a fun-loving host “looking to get out of the corporate world.”

Founder of, one of the nation’s largest online vitamin and supplement sellers, Lauby is one of millions of people who rent homes and rooms short-term to budget-conscious travelers. But his situation is unusual.

For one thing, Lauby doesn’t own the million-dollar Tierra Verde home, which has been foreclosed for years. And the influx of rowdy “guests” is causing concern and concern in the quiet, upscale community in southern Pinellas County.

Between Jan. 30 and June 13, Pinellas sheriff’s deputies responded to 17 reports of domestic disturbances and what a neighbor described as “loud and obscene” parties at the Seventh Street E home. performed nearly 20 “home checks” on their own. in just two months between April 9 and June 8, the newspapers show.

Dr O. Suliman, who lives across the canal, said “large numbers of guests” regularly arrive to spend Friday and Saturday evenings or three-day weekends. At times, up to 20 cars were parked in the driveway and nearby.

“They start at 6 or 7 p.m. and go until the next day – one went at 11 a.m.,” he said of the guests. “I have no problem if people are calm, courteous and cordial, but don’t keep the loud music and bad language going all night long.”

Scott McEwen, father of 4-year-old twins, moved his family from Tampa to what he thought was a peaceful and safe neighborhood.

“It’s become a real party zone,” he said. “They party at all hours of the day and night. They always party at 9 a.m., and these guys get drunk and walk out of there. You don’t have to hit any of my kids over 10 mph to kill them.’

On Monday, Lauby, 46, played down the complaints.

He said he had roommates who paid him to stay in the house, but insisted he had only rented it twice through Airbnb. Only one of the rentals resulted in a noise complaint, Lauby said.

“I worked with the police to kick everyone out of the house,” he said. “That’s what I would call a party, up late at night.”

Lauby said the other noises were from “socializing”, not partying, and that neighbors were exaggerating the issues. “The neighbors here are very difficult,” he said. “I had them yelling at me at 3:00 p.m. If there’s any noise coming from that porch, no matter what time of day, they’re going to call the police.”

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Sheriff’s logs show that more than half of the calls and house checks took place after midnight. Nonetheless, Lauby said no one was allowed on the porch, which overlooks the canal, after 9 p.m. He also said he pulled the Airbnb listing on Monday.

A native of Milwaukee, where he started in the mid-1990s, Lauby bought a home in St. Pete Beach three years ago for $1.086 million. Last year he was arrested in Pinellas for felony possession of a controlled substance, ecstasy, and was placed in a diversion program before trial.

Lauby said he also occasionally rents out the St. Pete Beach home on Airbnb, splitting his time between that home and the Tierra Verde home.

Built in 1989, Tierra Verde House has a diverse history of tenants and owners.

For several years it was the home of Mark Calaway, a professional wrestler better known as The Undertaker. In 2000, he sold it to Timothy Walters, founder of Big Tim’s Bar-B-Que, a popular restaurant in St. Petersburg. After Walters died, the house was seized. Last year, his elderly widow signed a quitclaim deed giving control of the property to Kevin Byrne, a Tampa real estate broker and investor, for what Byrne said was several thousand dollars and moving assistance.

Although now valued for tax purposes at nearly $1.1 million, the house was in such poor condition that Byrne said he spent about $20,000 on repairs, including replacing the dock. Although the house is still foreclosed, Byrne said he was negotiating to buy it from the bank; in the meantime, he’s been renting it from Lauby since January for about $3,000 a month.

Neighbors said Lauby could easily have made far more than that each month if Airbnb rentals had been as frequent as they think. Lauby did not specify how much he collected from Airbnb rentals.

To level the playing field with hotels, Florida began taxing Airbnb rentals last year. In Pinellas, everyone who rents through the company pays a total of 13% sales and tourist development taxes. However, it is not possible to determine from the tax receipts how much Lauby might have collected in actual rent because these tax records are private.

Although the ad disappeared from Airbnb on Monday afternoon, neighbors remain skeptical that the era of rowdy “socializing” is over. They plan to keep a close eye on the location.

“We have no choice because our back porch overlooks his back porch,” said Gaye Wurzbacher, whose home is across the canal. “It’s not that we watch it on purpose, it’s just that it’s part of our life now.”

CoContact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.

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