Short-term rental rule-breaker? Doral is cracking down

Doral is cracking down on short-term rental hosts as city officials budget for software that would uncover exact addresses of residents leasing out their homes on home-sharing sites like Airbnb and HomeAway.

City staff is considering contracting with the company Host Compliance, which is used by Surfside, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Islamorada and most recently Key Biscayne. The city is budgeting $10,000, but hoping it will cost less.

“It’s no great secret that across South Florida there’s an increase in the number of people renting out their homes,” said Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez. “It’s just a reality of the real estate market at this time. Municipalities have a right to set short-term rental policies, and that’s what’s happening here.”

In 2011, the city council passed an ordinance that prohibits short-term rentals of less than seven days or more than six months. Violations carry fines of $500 to $7,500. Hosts who rent their homes for more than seven days would have to register their guests with the city, and can do so no more than three times a year.

The city has relied solely on complaints to identify short-term rental hosts, but now is looking at different tactics.

“This software will help track and locate [hosts],” said Adam Temple, Doral’s code compliance director. “If you look on the websites, they don’t actually provide the exact addresses of the listings. This will help us drastically crack down on those that are breaking the rules.”

A decision will be made in June or July.

Doral has an estimated 300 short-term rentals, Temple said. Since January, the city has only been able to cite five, city records show.

“We began looking for additional tools because … we have been receiving more complaints compared to previous years,” Temple said.

Airbnb would not provide current figures for Doral but said earlier that from September 2015 to September 2016, Doral had about 177 hosts who made an average of $3,894 in annual income. On average, each host had guests 45 nights out of the year, with an average stay of  4 1/2 days.

It’s no great secret that across South Florida there’s an increase in the number of people renting out their homes. Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez

Doral, which has fewer hosts than Miami Beach, Miami, Aventura, Miami Shores and Coral Gables, is not alone in its battle against home-sharing platforms. Just last week, dozens of Miami property owners who rent their homes to tourists through Airbnb pleaded with city commissioners to buck a legal opinion declaring their business illegal. Instead, Miami commissioners threatened to sue Airbnb for promoting furtive activity and noted hosts that spoke at city hall had outed themselves to code compliance.

In pockets of Miami Beach — which issues $20,000 fines — short-term rentals are already illegal.

Doral’s proximity to the airport, access to highways, smorgasbord of ethnic restaurants and variety of golf courses — including the Trump National Doral — have increased budget-minded vacationers’ interest in the city of 18,000.

But Delia Arcelus, who manages 15 homeowners associations and condos in Doral, doesn’t want strangers staying in those homes. The property manager has filed various complaints with the city’s code enforcement department in the past years.

“If you want to send your teenage daughter to the community pool, you want to know that your neighbors, who are talking to your daughter, are decent people, because they have been screened by the association, which brings you peace,” Arcelus said. “But with these short-term rentals, that’s all unknown. You don’t know if the strangers are good, bad or horrible.”