The City of Miami Beach Florida has increased the fines it is levying against homeowners who rent out their property using the very popular web service Airbnb. The increase from $500 to $20,000 is meant to send a very costly message to property owners who continue to short term rent their property. The mayor, Philip Levine said that "I think [the fines] can be increased, actually, $20,000 is not enough. Our community is not in favor of short term rentals." Levine's statement begs the question that if the community is not in favor of short term rentals, then who is renting their property for short terms? Clearly, the City is drafting the ordinances and increasing the amount of the fines to levels that will "clearly shock the conscious" to protect the ever lucrative South Beach hotel business from Airbnb competition.
City officials have also pointed out that locals have complained that the transient renters often leave units in disrepair, pose unsafe conditions for nearby residents and use the rentals as party houses for their Miami Beach vacations.
The "concerns" of the City don't seem to make sense. If someone's unit was left in "disrepair" how would that impact someone who lives across the street? There are so many visitors to South Beach, I'm not really sure how someone staying at a someone's home would create "unsafe conditions for nearby residents" either. Finally, using a "rental as a party house for their Miami Beach vacations" is really no different than "using a hotel room as a party house for their Miami Beach vacation." There certainly are not any ordinances which outlaw "partying" in a home or hotel room in Miami Beach.
Can anything be done to mitigate such a huge fine? Airbnb has filed several lawsuit in California arguing that holding the company responsible for "matching property owners with renters" is unfair and unconstitutional. However, the lawsuits seem to be aimed at protecting Airbnb, rather than the property owners.
But what can the local property owner do? They can appeal the fine and appear before the Miami Beach magistrate and ask to have the fine mitigated; $20,000 is a very large fine and most property owners cannot afford to pay such a large fine. You can also hire an attorney to represent you at the magistrate hearing.
Lastly, a group of law abiding citizens, including those who have been issued a $20,000 violation can get together and challenge the ordinance as being unconstitutional. When the government literally "takes your property" by levying a fine that very few property owners can pay, they have, in my opinion, crossed the constitutional line.
If you would like to discuss how we might be able to assist you in fighting back against Miami Beach City Hall, please call.