Real Estate

Miami mansion owners shun taxes, sue city: ‘Our house is really a boat’

This house is not a home — it’s a boat, and should pay property taxes as such. 

That’s according to the owners of an unusually shaped, 75-foot super-modern house boat anchored off Miami Beach’s Star Island. They are suing the county for hitting it with a $120,000 property tax bill, claiming that their floating mansion is not a building — but a watercraft. 

“We believe the sole reason our client is in this position — an unconstitutional tax assessment — is because of the shape and the style and the look of this boat,” attorney Ivan Abrams, who represents the Arkup boat’s owners: the British businessman Jonathan Brown’s company MacKnight International Inc., which bought the vessel for $3.3 million last year, told the Miami Herald. “If it were designed like any other yacht, we don’t think we’d be in this position.”

Taxing the solar-powered, rainwater-collecting and purifying system-equipped residence as a landlubbing address just because it is a little different looking than its fellow yachts sets a slippery slope of a tax precedent, added co-counsel Karen Lapekas. “Every boat sitting on Dinner Key right would be subject to property taxes,” said Lapekas.

arkup houseboat sues miami
The Arkup is being taxed as a home.
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arkup houseboat sues miami
An aerial view from a drone shows the Arkup houseboat.
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arkup houseboat sues miami
The throttle on the houseboat.
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arkup houseboat sues miami
Inside the first floor living area of the Arkup.
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arkup houseboat sues miami
The vessel has 4,350 square feet of total space, including 2,600 square feet of total indoor space and 1,750 square feet of total outdoor space.
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arkup houseboat sues miami
The yacht is meant to be a greener alternative to existing models.
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arkup houseboat sues miami
The vessel is solar-powered.
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“If this boat is a floating structure, that means all the other yachts docked around Palm Island and Star Island that are not used every single day to go cruising are subject to taxation,” Abrams added. 

Critics point out that the “Arkup barely meets seaworthiness requirements: it can travel up to five knots (5.75 mph) per hour, has a bow deck with controls for navigation, and has small 136 horsepower thrusters and an anchor system” Jalopnik assessed, determining “It honestly comes across as a loophole for rich people to live on the water and not pay property taxes.”

It is true, however, that in determining how much to charge the Arkup’s owners in the November 2021 tax bill, which is now the subject of litigation, the property appraiser’s office did value the Arkup by comparing it to the value of other yachts. 

After being hit with the tax bill, the owner hired a captain for the purported vessel and took three members of the property appraiser’s office — as well as a county attorney — for a two-hour tour of the Bay, the Herald reported.

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