Family fined nearly $30,000 for illegal Key West vacation rental

This Key West home in Bahama Village was being illegally rented out for $395 per night in 2014 and the rate was $211 per night this year.
This Key West home in Bahama Village was being illegally rented out for $395 per night in 2014 and the rate was $211 per night this year.

A Gainesville family owes the city of Key West nearly $30,000 for illegally renting out its former home nightly in the downtown historic district, one year after signing an agreement to stop breaking the transient-license law.

The city agreed to suspend an additional $106,000 in fines in five years, a total that comes from a $500 daily fine. If they illegally rent it again over that time, they will have to pay the $106,000.

City Code Compliance levied the fines after discovering the property owners were illegally renting out 1 Baptist Lane on the very day they signed an order in January 2015 promising to cease doing so. The rentals went on from 2014 to this year.

Gwenuel and Cynthia Mingo, who hail from Key West but now live in Gainesville, admitted the rentals took place but said they don't have the $24,898 in profits from the illegal online Airbnb rentals because their son is the one who did it. 

Gerald Mingo, who also lives in Gainesville, made arrangements with a code officer working undercover to rent 1 Baptist Lane for $211 a night for 14 days in May.

"He just threw you under the bus," Donald Yates, Key West's magistrate who oversees code hearings, said this week at Old City Hall. "We can't have this occur again."

Without a transient license, Key West forbids property rentals for fewer than 30 days.

The Mingos' case was dealt with one day after the city announced it would assign one code officer to handle only illegal vacation rentals in Key West since they are on the rise.

"Illegal rentals often disrupt residential neighborhoods," city spokeswoman Alyson Crean said.

The 1928-era white Baptist Lane house, tucked away in the historic Bahama Village neighborhood, has been in the Mingo family so long there is no sales history on record with the county.

The Mingos, who say they'd like to return to Key West at some point, apologized for the illegal rentals they said they knew nothing about.

"We know we're at fault; we've got to pay something," Gwenuel Mingo told Yates at Wednesday's code hearing. "But that kind of money, there's no way we have it."

Yates said the $29,898 isn't due in one lump-sum payment and pointed out the family can continue renting its property to generate revenue but it must be for at least 30 days at a time.

"We know we have made some mistakes and are sorry for it," Cynthia Mingo said. "We want to do the right thing."

Gwenuel Mingo said the $25,000 in rent went to pay taxes and utility bills, but Code Compliance Director Jim Young wasn't sympathetic.

"Mr. Mingo Jr. made the money so he can pay that," Young said.