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Miami Beach Cracks Down on Airbnb Rentals

Illegal rentals could be fined as much as $20,000 per violation.

by Nicholas Nehamas, Miami Herald / December 16, 2016
Miami Beach sunrise Flickr/Brook Ward

(TNS) -- The city of Miami Beach wants to know if you plan to rent your condo on Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms.

City law permits short-term rentals only in certain areas of the Beach. Neighbors blame Airbnb and its competitors for noisy parties thrown by guests. The powerful hotel industry says the services are unfair competition because hosts don’t pay local resort taxes.

The Beach has responded by cracking down on illegal rentals with fines as high as $20,000 per violation.

On Wednesday, commissioners voted to further tighten regulations on short-term rentals. In order to advertise units on Airbnb and other sites, homeowners will now have to submit an affidavit to the city affirming that their property lies in an area approved for short-term rentals and that they have obtained a business tax receipt and resort tax account. They will also need to show that their condo association allows short-term rentals.

Fines for violators start at $1,000.

“I think [short-term rentals] are rampant and in order for us to stop it you must make it punitive,” Mayor Philip Levine said during the meeting. “The residents of Miami Beach, the voters of Miami Beach, I believe do not want to see short-term rentals in their buildings or in their neighborhoods.”

The ordinance passed unanimously, at least after Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez changed her initial “no” vote to “yes.”

“There was more that I agreed with in the ordinance than not,” she said on Thursday. “I was bothered by the fact that people must go to city hall to fill out an affidavit. I would like us to be technologically savvy and move into the 21st century.”

(Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán, a sponsor, was absent.)

Representatives from the hotel industry and individual condo associations spoke in support of the new rules. But some residents said they should be allowed to rent their units without burdensome regulations.

Airbnb, the largest short-rental company, expressed frustration with the ordinance.

“It is disappointing that an opportunity to collaborate with the private sector on protecting quality of life and economically empowering the middle class is instead being used to over-regulate and punish the constituents of Miami Beach,” company spokesman Benjamin Breit wrote in an email. “As the commission freely admitted from the dais, the desired intent was ‘punitive’ rather than constructive and that, in our opinion, is not good policy. Unfortunately, the real losers of this measure are visitors and the constituents in Miami Beach.”

Single-family homes in Miami Beach are not allowed to participate in short-term rentals, no matter their location. The city has fined residents and rental companies more than $4 million for violating its rules. Short-term rentals are defined as being less than six months and one day.

“South Florida is the fraud capital of the country, and we just felt it was putting too much trust in every condo owner, saying, ‘Yes they are going to tell the truth,’” Commissioner Joy Malakoff, a sponsor of the ordinance, told the Real Deal. “If you get an affidavit and a letter from a condo association, we as the governing body of the city feel much more comfortable that they really are allowed to do short-term rentals,” she said.

Miami Herald staff writers Joey Flechas and Chabeli Herrera contributed to this report.

©2016 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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