Courtesy of The Palm Beach Daily News
January 23, 2015
Several owners of condominium units at the Brazilian
Court will have to find a new way to rent their properties.
The Code Enforcement Board voted 4-3 Thursday to shut down agent Leslie
Diver, who managed rental inquiries for eight owners via an online vacation
rental site. She also arranged cleaning and laundry services.
|Town staff said Diver violated a
town ordinance that prohibits using a building or land
in a residential district for commercial or
“We believe that Ms. Diver is conducting a hotel
operation within the Brazilian Court Hotel,” said Code
Enforcement Manager Raychel Houston. “Ms. Diver is
renting out individual units at the hotel on a nightly,
weekly or monthly basis. In effect, she has a competing
hotel rental program in addition to the rooms that the
hotel is renting themselves.”
Timothy Hanlon, Diver’s attorney, said owners have the
right to rent their units and Diver is simply acting as
Condo rentals at The Brazilian Court Hotel were
reviewed recently by the Code Enforcement Board.
“She receives no commission from the sales,” he said. “She doesn’t employ
any cleaning services, she merely arranges for the work to be done. All the
payment is done by the owners. There is no operation of a hotel. I think
that is a gross exaggeration.”
Diver said she doesn’t receive money directly from the website or renters
but does charge owners a $200 flat fee plus $25 an hour for additional
“You are getting paid and it’s in conjunction with certain services that
you’re providing,” said Code Board Chairman Harris Fried. “You’re using that
building, the physical edifice, to run a commercial or quasi-commercial
Competing rental systems
Owners hired Diver to oversee renting their properties because they couldn’t
get the hotel to do it, Hanlon said.
“The reality is, the developer-owned units get rented first so the poor
owners are stuck in the back of the line,” he said. “They have no ability to
rent their units, so they have to rent them on their own. What’s really
going on here is the developer is upset that the owners are renting their
units first and getting revenue instead of the developer. I think this is a
Diver said she had to hire maid services because the hotel also would not
clean for any owner who does not rent through the hotel rental pool.
The developer owns about a third of the 80 units in the building. The hotel
rents its units as well as those owned by 30 or 40 people who participate in
the hotel’s rental program, according to Richard Schlesinger, co-owner of
the condominium hotel.
It’s true that the hotel’s units are rented first, Schlesinger said. The
developer also receives about 50 percent of the rental revenue from owners
who participate in the hotel’s program.
“When a unit owner participates in the rental program they have a number of
options of different programs to choose, but in essence the hotel operation
shares in the revenue,” Schlesinger said. “I believe that the rates we
charge as a hotel are probably significantly higher than what she is
Town rental laws
Hanlon asked the board the difference between what his client is doing and
what Realtors do on a regular basis.
“They rent out single-family homes, condominiums, co-ops every day, every
week, every month,” he said. “Is Sotheby’s in violation?”
Town code allows owners to rent their residential properties three times per
calendar year for periods of less than three months. Anything more is
considered a commercial use.
“The big difference is a hotel can rent a room by the day, by the week or by
the month,” said Zoning Administrator Paul Castro. “This is a different
A declaration of use agreement that grandfathers the hotel into the
neighborhood as a “non-conforming use” also makes the Brazilian Court
different, he said.
“The problem is not just related to the commercial activity but to an
intensification of a non-conforming use,” he said. “It creates parking
pressure on the street. It creates additional commercial activity within our
pristine residential areas that was never contemplated, and that’s a big
issue for us in the town.”
The board found Diver in non-compliance, charged a $150 administrative fee
and ordered her to cease commercial activity at the hotel.
But not all members agreed.
“The owners have voluntarily agreed to let her aggregate everything,” said
Anthony Dowell. “Where’s the right of free enterprise here?”
Friend and member Larry Ochstein also voted against the finding.