Courtesy of CBS MIAMI Channel 4
Published May 12, 2015
They are tourists who have traveled from Tennessee on
vacation in the heart of glamorous Miami Beach. Their choice of vacation
digs? The Octagon Towers Residential Condominium.
“It’s been great,” they told CBS4’s Chief Investigator Michele Gillen who
met them outside the building at 1881 Washington Avenue.
As seen in photos advertising, the apartment they were staying in, the
building sits directly across from the Miami Beach Convention Center and
just blocks from the beach.
Their excitement over the upcoming trip was shared on Facebook in postings
that described the trip as a one-week vacation in Miami beginning Sunday
April 19th and lasting through April 26th.
How did they find their Octagon vacation rental?
“Internet,” all three declared to Gillen.
What wasn’t advertised on the internet rental ads – describing the apartment
and property – were the two red warning flyers that are posted to the front
door of Octagon Towers.
One was issued by the fire chief of Miami Beach who deemed that the
operation of the building as a hotel as an “imminent life safety danger.”
The other posting cautions that power to the entire building will be shut
off in 30 days if owners don’t cease and desist from leasing apartments to
short term renters.
In the opinion of the fire chief, short-term rentals are those for less than
Faced with the publicly posted warning that the building is considered an
unsafe structure because of alleged fire code violations, long term
residents and owners are upset and worried.
One woman, who identified herself as France, told Gillen, “I am so angry
about these things. I can’t stand it anymore. I choose this as my home. This
is my home. ”
It was back in December 2014 that the city wrote up the Octagon as an unsafe
structure because so many apartments were allegedly being rented out for
short term vacation rentals. According to the fire department, that’s
anything under 30 days.
According to a review of city documents, because these apartments do not
have individual fire sprinklers, renting these apartments as short term
rentals is illegal – a violation that could cost everyone.
Another concerned owner named Pete said, “Stuff like that means people can
get thrown out of their homes.”
Phil added that it could cost him…”my home.”
Some owners have likened the lobby of the Octagon over the past tourist
season to that of a motel – an avalanche of luggage, tourists and strangers
with total access.
“We want peace in our house,” France said. “We want a safe place to live.
But now we don’t know who our neighbor is. Each week I have a different
neighbor. I can’t stand this anymore.”
The public warnings went up at the end of the March and mid-April.
But a visit to the web shows reviews from vacationers over the past months
and years of short term rentals – one after another, in apartment after
Yet, now the stakes seem to be higher than ever with the possibility of the
entire building being shut down if individual owners continue to rent for
less than 30 days.
The vacationers from Tennessee told Gillen they were staying at the Octagon
for “about three weeks.”
When Gillen responded that three weeks was not technically allowed at the
building, according to decisions by the fire chief, one short term renter
said, “Oh, I didn’t know that.”
Asked if they paid for a month’s stay the answer was “no. ”
CBS4 News wanted to talk to the man who owns the apartment they rented,
Sigmond Esposito. Known online as Siggy, he is an Octagon condo board
But none of the calls placed to Esposito were returned. Neither were calls
made to other Octagon condo owners who had rented out their apartments for
rentals for less than 30 days. Attempted calls to the condominium management
office were met with hang ups or not returned. Calls to the president of the
condominium board were also not returned.
The CBS4 News investigation found that those short term rentals – under 30
days – are anything but new at Octagon Towers.
Documents obtained by CBS4 showed that the Octagon was warned by the fire
department 4 years ago about short term rentals, following complaints.
In a 2011 report the building was warned:
“If these types of rentals are to continue, a change in occupancy must be
requested which will require 100 percent sprinkler protection.”
The building never installed sprinklers. A vote passed to opt out of a
sprinkler installation that could be a costly retrofit.
Yet following that vote, the internet is full of reviews by short term
vacationers who stayed in apartment after apartment at Octagon Towers,
praising week long stays.
CBS4 News repeatedly reached out to the City of Miami Beach requesting a
television interview with the fire chief and or city attorney and or any
appropriate city official to discuss the news investigation including
findings and tenant concerns. All requests were turned down.
The city provided CBS4 with a statement that reiterated the publicly posted
warnings and added that “code compliance officials are in discussion with
the condominium manager to gather details on any unit owner who may continue
to engage in short term rentals, despite the cited violations.”
Meanwhile, the vacationers from Tennessee?
From all appearances, according to tenants at the building, they wrapped up
their vacation stay at Octagon Towers on Saturday April 25th, following a
six night stay.