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Miami Beach leaders trying to stop short-term rentals of 'party homes'

Miami Beach is clamping down on “party houses” by making it illegal to advertise them.

New regulations that would make it a violation of the city code to advertise short-term home rentals passed a preliminary vote at Wednesday’s City Commission meeting. The rules would have to be finalized in a second vote before taking effect.

The city is trying to make it easier to make violations stick when someone rents out a home against Beach rules. Miami Beach prohibits rentals of less than six months plus one day.

Still, promoters offer up luxurious homes for parties that can get loud and rowdy, to the chagrin of neighbors. Commissioner Ed Tobin said some rentals even boast the availability of drugs and prostitutes.

“We want to resolve this problem, especially the multiple, repeat offenders,” said Tobin, who proposed the new rules.

Commissioners said part of the issue is that the rentals can be so lucrative that the fines levied by the city are not a deterrent. Fines can run up to $20,000 for repeat offenders who rent homes for commercial purposes.

“It’s a cost of doing business,” said Mayor Philip Levine.

Commissioner Joy Malakoff asked for the new rules to be referred to committee to discuss the outlawing of valets. She said some homeowners rent out their homes for once-yearly charity events, and not having valet service could actually be more disruptive to neighbors if attendees park all over the neighborhood.

Commissioner Michael Grieco worried about the city’s ability to prove who may have posted an illegal rental ad.

“What’s to say that their competition next door isn’t the one that advertised?” asked Grieco, a criminal defense lawyer. “I think it’s going to be a difficult thing to enforce because the response is going to be, ‘Well, I didn’t do it.’ 

The vote on the new rules was unanimous, but commissioners floated additional ways to combat the problem. Commissioner Deede Weithorn suggested getting tough on enforcement of fire codes. The mayor said the city should consider cutting off water to problem homes — something City Attorney Jose Smith said the city had already done in at least one case.

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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