Bahamian investor Martina Abosi wanted to get in on the Airbnb action in Miami Beach to help fund her retirement, so she set out to find a condo in areas of the city where short-term rentals are allowed.
Instead, Abosi paid $330,000 last year for a unit in a 1960s mid-rise tower that was allegedly renovated without permits, located in a neighborhood where short-term rentals are prohibited. And she faces a $20,000 fine should she seek out renters, according to a lawsuit she recently filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
Abosi says in the suit that she was unaware of the unpermitted work and that the building at 360 Meridian Avenue in Miami Beach is in a prohibited zone. She is suing the seller, Andre Frings, his broker Oliver Davis and real estate brokerage Keller Williams Miami Beach to get her money back, in addition to an undisclosed amount of damages for the funds she spent getting the unit permitted, plus loss of income from being unable to offer the 6th floor apartment to short-term renters.
Frings did not respond to a voicemail message left on his phone. Michael Rothman, the attorney for Davis and Keller Williams, told The Real Deal Abosi’s lawsuit is without merit. “We have a very strong defense to the claims,” Rothman said. “We believe the plaintiff’s claims are misplaced.”
Abosi’s attorneys did not respond to requests for comment via voicemail and email.
Prior to signing a purchase agreement this past August, Abosi met with Frings and Davis about her desire to buy an investment property in Miami Beach that she could lease to short-term renters who usually use Airbnb or similar web applications, according to her lawsuit.
“The plaintiff explained that the condominium unit would be her principal source of income during her retirement,” the lawsuit states. “Accordingly, the ability of the unit to be rented short-term was a material aspect of the agreement for the purchase.”
Abosi alleges Davis duped her into believing she was getting a good deal. “Davis stated that he understood real estate from both the buying and selling side,” the lawsuit states. “Further he represented that his underlying philosophy was to make all transactions a “win-win for both sides or no deal would be made.’”
She claims Davis assured her that Frings’ 555-square-foot studio could be leased as a short-term rental apartment and called her a “lucky girl,” the lawsuit alleges. After the closing this past September, Abosi claims she found out the studio was not eligible for short-term rentals. She also discovered a large pipe protruding from a wall that Frings had hidden from view by placing a large custom book shelf in front of it, according to the lawsuit. He had left the bookshelf as a parting gift, Abosi alleges.
Lastly, the lawsuit states, Abosi determined that Frings had done significant remodeling work, including removing and relocating interior walls, without obtaining building permits. In order to bring the apartment up to code, she will have to spend money on permit applications by a licensed contractor, procuring building plans and other steps necessary for getting city approval for the unpermitted work.