Opera Tower Condo Association in Miami sues Airbnb

Opera Tower (Wikipedia, Airbnb)

The Opera Tower’s status as a short-term rental hotspot appears to be coming to an end. Amid a crackdown on tenants who make money subletting units by the night, the Miami Tower Condominium Association is suing Airbnb and two people who allegedly refused to stop renting to guests from out of town.

“It’s been a problem for quite some time and it’s got out of hand,” said Jose Baloyra, the condominium association’s lawyer. “The Covid-19 situation brought it to its climax. The quality of life in the building was impacted by all these transients.

About 200 condos in the 56-story condominium and 665 units at 1750 North Bayshore Drive in Miami are available for daily and short-term rentals, but each condo must meet local and state zoning regulations, according to the lawsuit filed in August in Miami-Dade Circuit Court vs. Airbnb.

An Airbnb spokesperson did not specifically comment on the lawsuit, but said in an emailed statement that the company was responding to complaints from the condominium association with hosts who were using the booking platform in line to advertise units at Opera Tower.

“All Airbnb users are committed to complying with applicable laws and regulations, including their HOA and co-ownership regulations,” the statement said. “It is important that our hosts are good neighbors and we have shared the concerns of the Opera Tower Association with members of our host community.

The condominium association claims that the building has a certificate of occupancy for multi-family use, but not for accommodation. Earlier last month, before the complaint was filed, the City of Miami sent the condominium association a cease and desist letter stating that Opera Tower was under investigation for allowing the condominium ‘accommodation without going through the authorization process to authorize daily and short-term rentals.

According to the complaint against Airbnb, Opera Tower is now subject to fines and legal action over “Airbnb’s illegal business practices” and has turned the building into “a de facto unlicensed hotel.”

The condo association alleges that a search for the property on Airbnb results in more than 300 stays, but the people listing the units are not using their full or real names, so the board of the condominium cannot know who sublets.

Since 2018, the condominium association’s janitorial, security and insurance fees have increased by $ 853,000 per year to deal with short-term tenants in the building, according to the lawsuit. For example, Opera Tower hires police officers outside of duty hours to help out on weekends when short-term rental business is at its peak, and to help respond to late-night parties, loud music, and showdowns. physical and verbal.

The complaint claims that the building was the source of more than 397 911 calls between June 2017 and June 2020, and that there were numerous crimes committed on the property, including suspected incidents of theft, d assaults and rapes.

The condo association has accused Airbnb of refusing to terminate agreements with Opera Tower hosts that violate the company’s terms of service and that Airbnb will also not remove ads from ad units in the building.

Short-term rental contractors don’t just use Airbnb to rent Opera Tower condos. A Google search for “short term rentals at Opera Tower” found 119 listings on several online accommodation platforms. On Booking.com, a listing for “BiBo Rentals at Opera Tower” shows a studio apartment for rent at $ 150 a night for the entire month of October. Another ad posted on TripAdvisor.com offers a one-bedroom condo for $ 165 a night the rest of the month and all next month. The first two words of the ad header are Opera Tower. Most of the advertisements do not mention the name of the building, but the photos of the units depicted are in the opera tower.

The condominium association is also suing Lazaro Manuel Vento, owner of Happy Travels Miami, and Olga Suarez, owner of Suarez Group Hotels Corp, for allegedly violating rental agreements related to a penthouse unit and a floor unit. from 3 p.m., respectively. But the lawyer for the Baloyra association said he had advertised more than one unit on Airbnb. “Between these two tenants, they had nine units,” said the lawyer for the Baloyra condominium association.

In separate telephone interviews, Vento and Suarez said they did not know they were being prosecuted, and they both insisted that they had permission from the building management to carry out investigations. short term rentals. The Miami-Dade Circuit Court record shows that neither was served.

“I met the association, and as long as I left the units, they were not going to continue,” Vento said. “The lawsuit is unnecessary because I have already moved from the penthouse unit.”

Saurez claimed that she only did monthly rentals. “I stopped short-term rentals a long time ago,” she said. “I’m going to have to go to the management office and find out what’s going on. It really takes me by surprise.

Baloyra took issue with Vento and Suarez’s comments. “They have been blatant in continuing their short term rentals,” he said. “They never stopped. Even after we sent them the most recent letter of formal notice, they continued to do so. “

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