Residents at 2 Miami condos fed up with short-term rentals, pandemic parties

(WSVN) - We have exposed Miami-Dade mansions being used as party houses during the coronavirus pandemic, but tonight it’s condo residents complaining, saying a combination of COVID parties and violence has turned luxury living into a nightmare. The Nightteam’s Karen Hensel investigates.

With stunning views of Biscayne Bay and the downtown Miami skyline, the Opera Tower Condominium looks like a gorgeous place to live.

Spectacular from the outside, but inside the high-rise, some residents say is condo chaos.

Resident: “In a building that sort of touts itself as luxury, it’s anything but.”

Fearing for his safety, this Opera Tower resident asked we not show his face.

Resident: “You kind of feel like you’re a prisoner in your own building. It’s kind of insane.”

With bars and clubs closed, pandemic parties have moved underground in South Florida.

Resident (in video of 2 a.m. party, July 25): “I am going to call the police.”

Parties are happening all night, and look at this: elevator buttons smashed in and a broken bottle of liquor inside.

All of this creates long wait times for the elevators.

Resident: “There were times when you had to wait in line like you’re at a theme park, 30 minutes.”

Police dispatch logs show more than 100 calls to Opera Tower between March and the end of July.

Complaints about everything from loud parties and music to intoxicated people, and a caller who reported a pair throwing rocks from the 21st or 23rd floor balcony.

There was even a porn video shot outside on an Opera Tower balcony.

It has 1.3 million views.

Cellphone video, June 16: “Oh, my God, so there was a shooting.”

And in June, Miami Police say shots were fired at Opera Tower after yet another elevator argument.

David Ewing, resident: “We had a shooting here a couple of weeks ago, and I was out of my apartment for six hours.”

David Ewing has rented a unit here for five years.

David Ewing: “I have a beautiful view unit. It has a great city view.”

A beautiful view, but…

Karen Hensel: “Oh, there it is again.”

David Ewing: “That’s the fire alarm going off.”

Daily drama has the former firefighter planning to move out.

David Ewing: “I need to do it for my own peace of mind and my own security.”

Residents say a lot of the problems at Opera Tower are because of short-term renters, those who come here to party for the weekend. They say it’s turned this condo building into a hotel.

Resident: “The way they go around even having to come to the lobby is that folks will come to these lock boxes.”

We spotted the lock boxes ourselves on a construction fence directly across the street from the building.

Inside are key fobs needed to enter the building and to avoid registering as required.

Pictures from the lobby show long lines of people with luggage, and Opera Tower is not alone.

Christina Lardon, condo owner, resident: “It’s disgusting.”

At the Club at Brickell Bay, residents have taken pictures of cigarette butts, marijuana, even a condom landing on their balconies.

Christina Lardon lives here, and so does her daughter.

Christina Lardon: “She’s finding used condoms, blunts, feces from animals.”

Disturbance calls fill police logs here, too, from loud music and parties to face mask violations and short-term rental complaints.

Lardon says she regularly asks renters to wear masks because the rule isn’t being enforced.

Christina Lardon: “They get confrontational in the elevator. I had somebody threaten me.”

She recently called Miami code compliance.

Christina Lardon: “She was too afraid to step into the building. She said she didn’t feel comfortable.”

Karen Hensel: “Why?”

Christina Lardon: “Because she saw people weren’t wearing masks. They weren’t social distancing.”

7News reached out to both condo associations.

We did not hear back from the Club at Brickell Bay, but the attorney for Opera Tower told us the association is “actively seeking to terminate all short-term rental activities” and has “sent cease and desist letters to unit owners and/or renters,” but since he says not all have stopped, there could be further action.

CONTACT 7INVESTIGATES:
305-627-CLUE
954-921-CLUE
clue@wsvn.com

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