Court temporarily blocks Miami’s ban on app-based short-term rentals

In an after-hours ruling Wednesday, a Miami-Dade County circuit judge paved the way for Airbnb and similar home-sharing companies to operate in the city of Miami, with a temporary injunction blocking the city’s ban.

“I think we are all just confused about what is right, what is legal, what is OK for our community,” said Miami resident Marcie Mascaro, considered an Airbnb super host.

The ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed last week by five Miami hosts and Airbnb alleging that the city of Miami was ignoring Florida law by reinterpreting local zoning codes as a ban on short-term rentals.

The city said its ban on vacation rentals in residential areas is a response to residents who fear home renters will ruin the quality of life.

The lawsuit also takes issue with the city’s action against the hosts who came forward publicly to defend their businesses at a recent city commission meeting.

“They were putting themselves in harms way by officially, publicly, on the record saying that they are violating the code of the city of Miami,” Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said in an April 11 interview with Local 10 News.

The lawsuit quotes a Local 10 News report to support its allegations.

With the temporary injunction in place, the plaintiffs are also asking the court to clarify Miami rules on home-sharing.

In an emailed statement, An Airbnb spokesman wrote, “…We are hopeful that it will result in relief and fair treatment for the 3,000 Miamians who responsibly share their homes on Airbnb.”

Mascaro, who is not one of the five plaintiff hosts, said she has dealt with Miami’s zoning process, and to comply with what she understands is law, limits her rentals to 30 days and longer. 

She calls the temporary injunction a first step.

“How can we take the laws that we have and create new ones that better benefit hosts and the community?” she asked.

City officials have not responded publicly to the temporary injunction ruling.

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Airbnb sues Miami after city targets speakers at recent meeting

In a 44-page lawsuit filed Friday afternoon, Airbnb and five of its hosts asked a Miami-Dade County circuit court to stop the city of Miami from enforcing a ban on short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods. 

According to the lawsuit filed Friday in Miami-Dade County by Airbnb and five individual hosts, the city violated the First Amendment rights of hosts who spoke up at a March 23 city commission meeting.

Mayor Tomas Regalado used a list of speakers at a recent city commission meeting where the city’s rules on short term rentals were under debate.  Some listed themselves as Airbnb hosts, along with their addresses and phone numbers, as is standard procedure to speak on the record at city meetings. 

In a news report broadcast Tuesday on Local10 News, Regalado said hosts “were putting themselves in harm’s way by officially, publicly, on the record saying that they are violating the code at the city of Miami.”

That quote from the report is cited in the lawsuit. 

“The city is now acting to make good on those threats,” the lawsuit said. “Airbnb stands together with its Miami hosts in opposing the city’s unlawful efforts, and in particular stands with the brave individuals who have come forward and seek to protect their rights as individual plaintiffs in this action.”

Three of the hosts listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit attended the March 23 meeting. Airbnb officials have said the company has 2,300 active hosts in Miami.

Airbnb and the five hosts allege that Miami is flouting Florida state law with a reinterpretation of local zoning codes. 

The lawsuit also alleges the code enforcement action against the hosts has had a chilling effect on free speech and that citizens had the right to speak publicly without fear of retribution.

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Husband sentenced to prison for fatal DUI crash while having sex with wife

A South Florida man who pleaded guilty to a DUI accident that killed his wife while the two were having sex was sentenced to five years in prison.

Matthew Notebaert of Loxahatchee had earlier plead guilty to vehicular manslaughter and drunk driving in the 2014 crash that killed his wife, Amanda.

The Palm Beach Post reports Notebaert was drunk and high on marijuana when he drove his SUV into a canal embankment near the couple’s home.

Amanda Notebaert, who died at the scene, was riding on her husband’s lap and was naked from the waist down at the time of the accident.

In his sentencing hearing Wednesday, Notebaert said the couple began drinking while at a concert to mark his wife’s first night out after giving birth to their second child.

Notebaert said all he remembers of the accident is waking up next to his dead wife’s body.

Three hours after the accident, Notebaert was found to have a blood alcohol level of .149, twice the legal amount to drive.

Notebaert’s attorney had asked for her client to receive probation, but Circuit Judge Laura Johnson took the 33-year-old’s previous felony charges of cocaine possession, burglary and grand theft into account when announcing her sentence.

“This isn’t your first chance. You’ve been to jail before. You’ve been on probation,” Johnson said, according to the Post, adding: “You failed your wife. You failed your children and you failed all your family that is here today.”

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Family of Canadian filmmaker who died during dive files wrongful-death lawsuit

The family of a Canadian filmmaker who died while diving in the Florida Keys earlier this year is suing the dive company and its owner for negligence.

An attorney for the family of Rob Stewart held a news conference Tuesday morning in Coral Gables to announce the wrongful-death lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Broward County, claims that Stewart’s death could have been prevented and that the defendants “had a duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of its passengers.”

Named in the lawsuit are Horizon Dive Adventures, Fort Lauderdale-based Add Helium, its owner, Peter Sotis, and his wife, Claudia Sotis.

The lawsuit alleges that the Delray Beach couple “supervised, planned, ordered or controlled” Stewart’s final dive Jan. 31 at the Queen of Nassau wreck site near Islamorada. He disappeared shortly after resurfacing, and his body was found three days later.

Stewart family attorney Michael Haggard called the incident an “unbelievably preventable tragedy.”

Sotis passed out after getting on the boat while Stewart was still in the water, Stewart’s parents and their attorney said Tuesday.

“In the mass confusion of him passing out on the boat, no one, no one from that boat, from Horizon Divers, from Add Helium, kept an eye on Rob Stewart,” Haggard told reporters.

Stewart’s father said the dive crew lost sight of Stewart while they were tending to Sotis on the boat.

“The self-interest of Peter Sotis is the reason Rob’s dead right now,” Brian Stewart said.

Brian Stewart also criticized Horizon Dive Adventures for not having eyes in the water.

Stewart’s family is seeking damages in excess of $15,000 and a jury trial.

Stewart directed the 2006 documentary “Sharkwater.” He was in the Keys working on the sequel at the time of his death.

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