HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Condo owners say the illegal renting of units in violation of by-laws is wreaking havoc on HOA dues and quality of life.
Condo owners who reached out to the Call Christina team said their building is overrun with tourists that are not just soaking up the sun, but their HOA dues, and claim the board and the management company is not doing a thing to put a stop to it.
"We have tried everything else to protect our rights and we have not been able to be successful," Ellen Hassman, who owns a condo at The Tides, said. "They think they are getting around it because they call them guests. We never get answers and no one is helping us anywhere."
"It is not their fault," another Tides condo owner, Jeff London, said about the visiting tourists. "It is the fault of the association and the management company that lets it go on."
Hassman worries about how their HOA dues are being allocated and about the quality of life impact the tourist have on them.
"We have to go asleep at 10 p.m. because we have to work the next day. They are first partying and having dinner. There are greeters and cleaners. It is not just when they are illegal renting, it is in the preparation of the rentals that our peace is being disturbed," Hassman said.
Other communities across South Florida are also struggling with the impact of the vacation rental industry.
The view of sun-kissed tourists hanging poolside on a gorgeous South Florida day wouldn't seem out of place unless you knew The Tides isn't a hotel, it is a condominium with by-laws provided to Local 10 News by condo owners that say in no event shall any lease be for a period less than 90 days.
"If you look at VRBO, there are 143 listings. You wouldn't think of that as a condo, you think of that as a hotel," London said. "There are so many short-term renters here it just makes life difficult, challenging."
"People are using our HOA funds to pay for extra garbage pickup," Hassman said. "All our money is being enhanced to make it look like a hotel. I would say somewhere I am being taken."
More than 100 units are advertised on sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and Booking.com, with some advertising a minimum stay of just one to three nights with rates up to $200 a night or more.
In one post, a host brags that you can "enjoy the exclusive residents' beach club and pool."
Other hosts boast about The Tides 5-star amenities and communal laundry room.
"The washing machines and dryers are always broken," London said.
Nearly everyone the Call Christina team encountered while Hassman and London took our crew for a tour of the grounds said they were visiting.
Several large groups said they were visiting from Argentina.
The Call Christina Team found more than 40 units listed on an Argentine-based website called Viajo a Miami Beach.
Canadian based Somil Corporation advertised 14 Tides units on its website.
Broward County property records confirm the company owns several units at the waterfront condominium.
The Call Christina team also checked with Broward County's Records Taxes & Treasury Division.
Director Tom Kennedy confirmed that Somil has a current account registered with the county's Tourist Development Tax Section.
In an email exchange between London and a Somil representative provided to Local 10 News by London, a company representative confirmed a rental unit reservation at The Tides for a period of eight days, which London points out is much less than the 90-day minimum as per the condo's own rules and regulations.
"That type of activity causes so much wear and tear on the building," London said.
Some of the advertised rentals say a 1-bedroom fits four; in another listing a 2-bedroom is said to sleep 6.
"Water has gone sky high, because you have six to eight people in an apartment," Hassman said.
The condo owners who spoke with Local 10 News also pointed out a tiki hut erected near one of the pools and a lobby café selling tourist sunglasses and sunhats.
"Towels, mugs, everything an owner would need right?" Hassman said.
London explained how visitors are given resort-style temporary plastic bracelets.
The moment our crews walked into the management office to inquire about the residents' concerns, like the concierge desk of a hotel, a staff member was snapping those resort-style bracelets on a couple who said they were "guests" for a couple of nights.
The Tides executive manager Eveline Smythe said she would need to get permission from her bosses for an on-camera interview, and then never returned a follow-up inquiry.
Calls and emails to the Akam management company and association attorney Marci A. Rubin went unreturned.
Also not willing to talk was resident board member and real estate broker Joe Cimino, who not only shut the door on Local 10's Christina Vazquez, but then promptly locked the door.
Requests for comment sent to Somil, Viajo a Miami Beach and VRBO were unreturned.
Airbnb tells Local 10 News that they ask all hosts to follow their local regulations to include the rules of their HOA's.
THE BOOMING BUSINESS OF VACATION RENTALS:
"You should not be renting to people for a one night's stay," said Hollywood Commissioner Patricia Assefff. "That is ridiculous."
Asseff also serves on the Broward County League of Cities and said coastal cities have been dealing with issues that have come about due to the vacation rental industry to include zoning, property rights and public safety.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association recently called short-term rental platforms an "illegal business," accusing them of dodging taxes and ducking rules.
"We share the concerns local residents have expressed about the growing number of commercial operators who are using sites like Airbnb to run multi-unit, full-time lodging businesses without any oversight," AHLA stated on its website.
The associates said a growing number of commercial landlords are using rental platforms to run "illegal hotels."
The cities of Fort Lauderdale, Dania Beach and Hollywood have recently created vacation rental ordinances.
The Tides, however, falls outside the scope of Hollywood's ordinance, which focuses on single-family neighborhoods.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the state agency that regulates condos, tells the Call Christina team that the renting of a condo unit in and of itself is not a violation of the Florida condo act and that document enforcement falls outside the division's jurisdiction, leaving The Tides in turbulent waters of seemingly regulatory limbo.
Hassman and London said they continue to watch vans full of tourists arrive and depart from their condo building, continue to struggle finding a spot by the pool, continue to worry that their HOA dues are being siphoned to support a rental operation in violation of their association's rules, continue to deal with a board and management company seemingly unwilling to reign in the people making money from breaking the rules.
They want state regulators to step-in and take a look.
"It is a mess," Hassman said.
"It is completely frustrating," London added.
The Call Christina team has asked state regulators to investigate whether the unit owners renting their units online need to secure public lodging licenses as required by Florida law based on how the units are being advertised. We will keep you posted.