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Politics

Miami Threatens to Sue Airbnb, Hit Residents for Code Compliance Over Short-Term Rentals

March 26, 2017 - 3:45pm

Before Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado heads out of office, he has a parting gift for some of his constituents: whacking them with code compliance violations for voicing their opinions at a City Commission meeting.

On Thursday, a group of Miami property owners renting their homes out on Airbnb showed up at Miami City Hall, begging Mayor Regalado to reject a measure declaring their businesses an illegal nuisance.

According to the Miami Herald, they pleaded with Regalado and city commissioners, imploring him to end the war with Airbnb and give them a fair chance.

Regalado had a message for them: No way, no how.

Instead of reasoning with them, the Miami City Commission voted 3-2 to declare Airbnb an “illegal nuisance.”

To make matters worse for residents, the commission then told the hosts who gave their names and addresses on the record they had outed themselves to code compliance, which could mean the city coming after them to hit them with a bevy of fines, all for renting out their homes on Airbnb.

Tom Martinelli, head of public policy for Airbnb, called the outing of residents “deeply disturbing.”

"The 3-2 vote is one thing given the symbolic nature of the resolution, but what I have a fundamental problem with is the government going after their people for exercising their democratic right [to free speech,]” he told Sunshine State News. “That right is sacred.”

It’s the latest chapter in an ongoing saga between the greater Miami area and Airbnb -- and it’s a war which has only intensified in recent months and shows no signs of losing momentum any time soon. 

Both Miami and Miami Beach have become notorious for their unfriendly approaches to short term rental properties. 

In Miami, Regalado has pushed to ban short-term rentals in suburban areas and to create a set of hoops to jump through for renters who want to list their homes on Airbnb legally, equipped with rules, fines and compliance codes for residents.

In Miami Beach, Mayor Philip Levine has jacked up fines for illegal renters from $500 all the way to $20,000 -- and if he can swing it, he’s aiming to make that figure even higher.

Last week, the two mayors teamed up for an anti-Airbnb press conference where they doubled down on their intentions to take a no holds barred approach towards dealing with the homesharing company, whose users pumped $253 million into the city last year alone.

In the days leading up to the City Commission meeting, Airbnb and Levine threw down the gauntlet and sparred in brutal ad campaigns.

The homesharing site accused both Levine and Regalado in a television commercial of being “against middle class families” for their opposition to short term rentals. 

“Despite the high cost of living in Miami, the mayors want to stop families from sharing their homes to pay their bills and mortgages,” the ad said, providing viewers with both Levine and Regalado’s phone numbers so constituents can call and ask why they’re against middle class families.

In retort, Levine personally paid for a banner plane to trash Airbnb. He also floated a water billboard in Miami Beach accusing Airbnb of “hosting Tallahassee politicians.”

Moving forward, Airbnb told SSN it’s taking a “wait and see” approach with the cities. 

“We will see where the chips lie,” Martinelli said. “The positions taken on Thursday were more political than policy-focused.”

With both mayors on their way out, though, Martinelli and Airbnb see a glimmer a hope. 

“The reality here is that in a few months this all changes,” “This issue is not so cut and dry."

Looking back, Martinelli said he couldn’t help that feel a lot of the pushback -- especially on residents of Miami and Miami Beach -- has been unnecessarily cruel.

“I understand if [the local governments] had a complaint against them, but for them to be hunted down and punished because they have a different opinion than the mayors, it makes me concerned,” he said.

Airbnb says it will defend its hosts all the way to the end.

“We’re telling them to hang in there,” he said. “We aren’t going to leave them out to dry.” 

 

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen

 

Comments

Russian thug rule, here and now - in Miami.

The Air BnB spokesman said that the government went after people for exercising their democratic right of free speech because they used those PUBLIC statements to fine the individuals. Think about that! If ANYONE admitted to a violation of a law, that statement would be used against them. What does this guy expect? To have a "Miranda Warning" read to speakers at City Council meetings? Air BNB is problematic. If you are the neighbor that lives full time next to a unit that is rented out weekly. Yes some people may be renting a room or a mother in law unit to supplement their needs. Those are not a problem as the vacation cottage that is rented weekly in a subdivision. Government regulations may be a problem, but in the case of Air BNB, if protections are not provided for neighbors, then what else can do business next door?

Really...really. This isn't about neighborhood's railing against the machine...if it was, the politicians wouldn't give them the time of day...it's about big business using politicians to push competition out of the way. It's about greed...corruption...and the fat cats getting their way. Your comments smack of ignorance about the process. How is Air BNB problematic...Air BNB is the people! Air BNB is helping the little guy make a little money. You must work for the city.

Most people have absolutely no idea that their neighbors are renting out their extra room or cottage on AirBnB. How is it "problematic"? Are they making too much noise? You don't know who they are? There is an extra car in the driveway? Sounds like Spring Break/Thanksgiving/Christmas/ Summer Vacation in any neighborhood in the state. What "protections" would you like? Would you like there to be regulations specifying whom and for how long your neighbors are allowed to have house guests? Would you like your neighbors to be required to have their guests pre-approved and checked in and out? Well, there is a community for you - it's called a condominium. What else can do business next door in a private home on private property? Pretty much anything so long as they do not produce excessive noise and/or excess traffic. You can run your bookkeeping business out of your home; you can run your architecture business out of your home; you can run your counseling business out of your home; you can run your art studio out of your home; you can probably even run a small daycare business out of your home. You can do all of these things as long as you do not produce a lot of noise and/or a steady stream of customers in and out of your property because....it's your private property. I would way prefer to have my neighbors renting out their mother-in-law suite or pool house on a weekly basis to happy-to-be-here tourists than be living next to a house rented long term to a group of UM students living two to a bedroom and a constant stream of their friends coming in and out.

"Private Property Home Ownership" doesn't mean much if everyone is allowed to make up their own interpretation of those words. We had home flipping, then vacation rentals. What's the next get-rich-quick scheme for those who aren't willing to get a job and pull their own weight?

This is beyond disgusting. Homeowners forced to tolerate illegal immigrants, in clear violation of the law. that is not a "nuisance" to these tin pot dictators. They care not that our neighborhoods are filled with drugs and prostitution, they do not give a rats behind that our commercial areas look like third world hellholes. But if homeowners can somehow stand a chance of generating some extra income to pay their confiscatory taxes, then they care? WE WILL VOTE ALL OF THEM OUT OF OFFICE. THIS PERSECUTION SHALL END. We the People decide, not these parasitic fat cats. Airbnb is OUR business, our livelyhood. What the hell will they try to ban next? Roomates? RESPECT YOUR CONSTITUENTS. THIS IS NOT CUBA!

Good observation. Absolutely how I feel. Bravo!! Stand up to the idiots we've elected...vote them out of office. Vote in someone who'll stand by the people. Our economy is in the dumps...entry level jobs at McDonald's and other fast food establishments that were once occupied by teenagers are now occupied by adults trying to make a living and feed their children...all thanks to our politicians. So, what's Miami's answer to Air BNB...need a little extra money...send the violators back to the fast food chains...and welfare lines. Good going Mr. mayor.

And what of the rights of homeowners who paid a significant premium to buy in a residential neighborhood so that they didn't have to be subjected to the annoyances of having commercial properties nearby? Vacation rental operators want to have their cake and eat it to. They want all the protections of residential ownership and none of the burdens of business regulation. Airbnb is your business only because you haven't found a legitimate way to support yourself and you are forced to resort to dealing in gray market enterprise.

Nothing wrong with short term rentals, depending where they are located. Be careful buying in an area without first checking the local ordinances that are in place to protect full-time residents in quiet residential neighborhoods from weekly rentals with dozens of strangers, cars and wild parties both day and night.

MIAMI, another failing 'sanctuary city'

Good riddance to Regalado (Maybe Cuba is looking for another half-vast obfuscater politician who doesn't believe in "Private Property Home Ownership"); Set him adrift on an "inner-tube raft" toward Cuba and let him contemplate "America the GREAT" for the duration of his "trip"!

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