Airbnb settles Federal lawsuit with City of Miami Beach, new criminal penalties for host

Airbnb has reached a settlement with the City of Miami Beach on 8/1 that can only be understood as Airbnb successfully covering their ass by requiring a mere fraction of the millions in fines Miami Beach has levied on them since the $20,000 fine for advertising STR’s went into effect.

By both parties admission, Airbnb never submitted a dime of these fines, before this lawsuit was filed. By Airbnb settling their claim with the City, they have agreed to pay $380,000 fine, and will now require that all hosts in Miami Beach disclose their BTR (business tax receipt) number in their listing. And Airbnb is required to create a field and have this BTR number displayed on the main listing page. This has already gone into effect on the website.

The City, clearly knowing that 95% of the zoning in our City banns STRs, has on the same day of this settlement, announced that they have passed a criminal statue - whereby submitting a false BTR number on line can be charged with the criminal submission of an affidavit, 60 days in jail and or up to $500 fine. The lawsuit specifies that Airbnb is not required to verify if the host provided BTR is a valid number - that was part of Airbnb’s basis for the lawsuit initially.

As for now, Airbnb has notified all Miami Beach host’s that listing will be deactivated on 8/7 if no BTR number is provided. The screen to submit a BTR on Airbnb discloses that your submission “may be” provided to the City for verification… The BTR submission requires you disclose your address to the City on the form.

The Mayor is gloating and released an immediate press statement claiming victory over illegal STRs, saying the City is protecting the resident’s quality of life against bad acting STR operators.

Meanwhile, on the same day, the Mayor and Commission passed a zoning variance for a hotel developer to double the size of the former allowable height. Exceptions for developers /hoteliers are expected, exceptions for the average Joe wanting to rent out their home are scoffed at. Funny town to be living in, a city based on tourism that won’t let its residents participate in that economy.

This post is really hard to read as in James Joyce style stream of consciousness.

So is this going to affect your business?


The odd paragraph here and there would help…


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If you were not operating without a permit, this should not affect you? or am I missing somehting.

criminal penalty is for putting a fake permit number in your airbnb listing. who does that?

Sorry for the sloppy drafting. I’ve corrected to make it easier to follow, and corrected my many typos and grammatical errors :slight_smile:

It does affect my business, and many others here. There are less than 150 BTR operating Airbnb’s in the City - and they’re about to get a huge boom in business. There is a safe harbor period until Jan 1, 2020, but I’m going to have to either wind it down or be on the wrong side of the law, with a criminal penalty hanging over me. We’re already looking to purchase in legally zoned areas off the beach, it’s just not worth the hassle and scapegoating from the City. I’m even now reassigning a Commissioner appointed advisory board member seat over this. I don’t want any connection with these sell out local officials.

Its just very aggravating and feels unfair because the City, without much attention and announcement, changed the zoning allowance where I live to ban STRs, where they were formally allowed, back in 2010. They never actively enforced it for years, allowing the statute of limitations to run out on property owners who could make claims for offset in expected value. I believe in the entire City that only 4 homeowners made a legal claim, another is still actively suing the City for a claim of a projected loss of 35 million in earnings.

Once the City began enforcing the STR ban, they came down with a hammer and introduced the $20,000 fines. It’s just been a never ending battle with the City coming after residents conducting STRs in banned zones, printing ads in the City magazine sent to all residents to spy on and report neighbors suspected of conducted STRs (you should see these ads !), inviting lobbyist from the AHLA to speak - ironically, during the “Citizens hour forum” of every Commission meeting, and dealing with the Commissioner’s dead stare and fake smiling when a resident dares to speak up for their right to property usage. The newest twist in the City’s attack comes directly from the AHLA’s “studies” linking child molestation and human trafficking to home sharing! That’s the kind of crap our local government allows to be said about its residents doing STRs.

Myself and several other hosts are organizing a meeting and hope to form a direct action engagement committee. Planning things like annoyance picketing: showing up with bullhorns and signs to every major City event, ribbon cutting, the City’s main annual cash cow - Art Basel, and essentially telling everyone how the City is attacking homeowners rights and distributing literature showing the campaign donations from the major hoteliers here. The City Commission don’t listen to us, so maybe protesting and embarrassing them will force them to listen. At this point there is no reason not to, there is nothing to lose now - they took it all away already.

There is also a State level pre-emptive bill going through the Legislature, backed by Republicans, that if passed will remove the right to regulate / ban STRs from local governments and leave that regulation solely in the hands of the State. The State officials are very pro STR. All of Florida is basically a 2nd home, vacation market for a large part. No idea why the local government wants to stop normal people from renting out their properties here in Miami Beach. Its really sad.


Sorry, I’ve corrected to make for better ease of reading.

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Well, everyone here honestly. In my condo building of 23 units, all but two are STRs. Our condo docs allow for STRs, as it was formed in 1995. We have two full time residents, an owner, and a tenant.
The rest are all owned by investors and running STRs. The law passed in 2010 re-zoned my area and made STRs illegal - the area that 90% of the listings are in, South Beach. They made a few exceptions to grandfather in businesses that had State licensing. Homesharing existed here long before Airbnb came around, prior to it was Craigslist that was king. I actually came to Miami Beach for my first visit by renting off Craigslist in 2006, in the same neighborhood where I own my properties now. Like most others, one of the main deciding factors in moving and buying here was the ability to leverage the high influx of tourist looking for cheaper accommodations.

There are only three streets zoned for STRs in all of South Beach, and its populatated only with hotels and a few condotels - Ocean Dr, Collins Ave, and Washington Ave. The three main party streets, if you will, of South Beach. They just last year created a single street zone in North Beach as a trial run, but it’s not going well because the underlying requirements to obtain a BTR for STRs is so onerous that most people can’t afford to pay for the licensing process, nor wait the average 10 months it takes to be approved. In the year the new zone has opened up, two BTRs have been issued… two.

So basically its normal people being screwed by our bought off local government who are putting fake permit numbers - or they soon will be to stay active after 8/7. The majority of hosts i’ve been speaking with don’t plan on stopping, they plan on continuing until busted and fined. Everyone has to weight the risks and reward I suppose.

I totally get it we are all living under the risk of being banned one day from our housing block or the neighborhood or the district.

That’s why I advocate so much for guest education and also no night time self check ins which are pushed by airbnb but disturb the neighbourhood and give a free leash to abusive renters.


Admittedly, much of the scapegoating and City’s backlash took hold here with other citizens exactly because of bad hosts. My building is very well self regulated, so we don’t allow bad acting hosts - we have evicted people caught being absurd. One kid rented a studio and put 8 bunk beds inside - his ass was out after the first group arrived. The combination of the real bad acting hosts plus the City’s failure to pass common sense regulation led to this situation. Both sides did things they shouldn’t have - now only good actors are paying the price. Its total bullshit.

Airbnb rewards bad hosts, default is “parties accepted” , “smokers accepted”, “animals accepted”, self check in, etc.

If we all want to see the Airbnb model survive I think it is time to start educating the guests.