Business

Miami vs. Airbnb: City proposes partial short-term rental ban and strict regulations

City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado at the Jan. 12 city commission meeting. He is sponsoring a proposed ordinance that would allow Miami to ban short-term rentals in a substantial portion of its neighborhoods and introduce a number of strict regulations for short-term rental owners in legal areas.
City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado at the Jan. 12 city commission meeting. He is sponsoring a proposed ordinance that would allow Miami to ban short-term rentals in a substantial portion of its neighborhoods and introduce a number of strict regulations for short-term rental owners in legal areas. rkoltun@miamiherald.com

Airbnb’s problems keep getting bigger in Miami-Dade County.

While the popular short-term rental platform grapples with $20,000 fines levied against renters on Miami Beach and a stalled tax agreement with the county, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado is adding his voice in opposition to the growth of Airbnb and similar sites.

In an proposed ordinance originally set for the city commission’s Feb. 23 agenda, Miami is looking to ban short-term rentals in a substantial portion of its neighborhoods and introduce strict regulations for short-term rental owners located in legal areas. The ordinance has since been taken off the agenda and instead sent to the city’s planning and zoning board for further consideration.

Regalado, who is sponsoring the ordinance, said the new rules are a way to curb “legitimate complaints” from residents who worry that transient renters threaten their quality of life.

I felt that my duty was to No. 1 protect the zoning code of the city but No 2., more importantly, to protect the residents.

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado

The home-sharing platform has grown in Miami over the last year, earning Miami hosts $6,100 on average in 2016 and producing $130 million in economic impact for the city of Miami, according to a report commissioned by the platform. About 174,000 travelers visited Miami through an Airbnb rental in 2016, the report said.

But Regalado said that growth has left a negative mark locally, too, especially during annual events like Ultra Music Festival.

“For the last three years, we have had complaints from condos in downtown because of Ultra. There are people that decide to just go away the week of Ultra and they rent their condos for thousands of dollars and then you’ve got 20 people living there and they create problems,” Regalado said. “I felt that my duty was to, No. 1, protect the zoning code of the city but No 2., more importantly, to protect the residents.”

According the Regalado’s proposal, short-term rentals shorter than 30 days won’t be allowed in suburban areas, also known as T3 Transect Zones, which are not allowed to lodge transient residents under Miami 21 zoning rules. The majority of the city of Miami is designated as T3.

Homeowners in areas where short-term rentals would be allowed would be required to apply for a certificate of compliance. The $250 application calls for applicants to submit the property’s deed, proof of a business tax receipt from the city and Miami-Dade County, a Florida Department of Revenue certificate of registration for taxing purposes and a transient lodging license with the Florida Department of Business, among other documents.

Short-term renters would also be responsible for informing guests, via signs posted on the property, of the city’s noise ordinance, days and times for trash pickup, the city’s non-emergency police number and the approved areas for parking. Legal short-term rentals would be subject to fire and safety requirements (including complying with pool safety laws) and yearly inspections. Rentals would be limited to two people per room.

Violations of Miami’s proposed short-term rental ordinance are a $250 fine for a first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.

Violators, including those advertising a short-term rental in an area not zoned for it, would incur a $250 fine. Subsequent offenses would cost $500.

The ordinance is now scheduled to come before the city commission in March.

Airbnb spokesman Benjamin Breit said the proposal blindsided the company after a series of “productive” conversations with the mayor and the commissioners.

The proposal appears to be a copy-and-paste replica of a Fort Lauderdale ordinance passed in August 2015 that introduced similar measures but has struggled to gain compliance from residents, said Breit. Portions of the Miami ordinance cite the August 2015 date of Fort Lauderdale’s regulation; in another section, a reference to a different Fort Lauderdale ordinance was removed and never replaced.

“It is disappointing that Miami would consider replicating a failed model,” Breit said. “We really hope we can go back to the drawing board with Mayor Regalado on a model that makes it simple and easy for Miami hosts to register.”

The home-sharing platform has come to an agreement with other cities, including Chicago where residents can register via Airbnb’s app.

We really hope we can go back to the drawing board with Mayor Regalado on a model that makes it simple and easy for Miami hosts to register.

Benjamin Breit, spokesman for Airbnb

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bruce Roberts, who supported the Fort Lauderdale ordinance, said the city has struggled to get residents to register their rentals, partially because the application fee is $750.

“The compliance has not been where we want it to be,” Roberts said. The Fort Lauderdale city commission recently discussed elimintating barriers to registration, including reducing the fee and adding more staffing to tackle logistics, he said. No changes have yet been finalized.

“It’s an overwhelming problem,” Roberts said. “I will say on the positive side, we have not been getting nearly the amount of complaints from neighbors that we had in the past.”

According to Fort Lauderdale’s code compliance department, 217 certificates of compliance have been issued since the ordinance came into effect in November 2015. Airbnb estimates that is less than 5 percent of all short-term renters in Fort Lauderdale, according to listings on Airbnb and rental platform VRBO.

Regalado said the city is aware of the compliance issues in Fort Lauderdale and is open to tweaking his proposed ordinance once it comes before commissioners.

“[Then,] if the commissioners want to vote it down, that’s their decision,” he said.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH

  Comments