guest blog by Deborah Goonan
AirBnB, VRBO, and online vacation rental sites have taken on a life of their own. Now condo owners can arrange to rent their units by the week, with the click of a few buttons. But some Florida condo owners are upset that their condo building has been overrun with tourists from all over the world, making their homes feel more like a hotel.
In the video report linked below, Michele Gillen, CBS4, Miami Beach, features Octagon Towers, just steps from South Beach. One condo owner laments that she no longer knows her neighbors, because they change every week. The problem has been ongoing.
The City of Miami Beach is threatening to shut off utilities to Octagon Towers, if owners do not cease and desist short-term rentals. That’s against city fire code. And Miami Beach already has dozens of hotels and Condo Hotels specifically permitted for vacation lodging.
But that doesn’t stop Condo Board member Sigmund Esposito from breaking condo restrictions and city codes all day long. Check out the interview of his vacation tenants, who were apparently unaware of the City’s ordinance restricting short-term rentals in residential condominiums.
Here’s my take on this. Octagon Towers is but one example of why condo owners frequently disagree about how their Association should be governed and managed. There is almost aways a conflict between the owners who actually live in their units and the owners who rarely stay in their units, but want to collect maximum rent.
So, here’s a suggested solution. If we are going to create RESIDENTIAL condominiums such as Octagon Towers (where long term leases may be allowed), then let’s not run the Association like a corporation! Don’t hand all the power to the Board, and don’t allow corporations to own individual units as if they were actual “persons.” (Searching public records for Octagon Towers, I noticed quite a few LLCs as owners.) Treat residents as actual citizens of their community, albeit a small community. Pre-screen buyers and long-term tenants to be certain they are looking for a place to live in peace and quiet, and not a money-making revolving door for vacationers.
Steer those hoping to make a killing on vacation rentals to what should be called INVESTMENT communities, such as condo hotels. Perhaps this is the kind of Association CAI had in mind when it decided years ago that “Community Associations” are businesses.
Some may be. But most aren’t — or shouldn’t be