In Miami-Dade, Airbnb agrees to be taxed. Regulation should be next

Miami Herald Editorial Board

An Airbnb supporter waits to speak at a Miami City Commission meeting in March.
An Airbnb supporter waits to speak at a Miami City Commission meeting in March. cguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

Many local homeowners are using Airbnb, the controversial, and booming, short-term home-sharing platform, to rent out their property and make some extra cash. Miami-Dade County wants residents to reap their share of tax revenue, even if some cities have not yet sanctioned the service.

Tuesday, commissioners are scheduled vote on Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposal to require Airbnb to collect local resort taxes and pass them on to the county.

This should make the field a little more level with the hotel industry, which has been right to complain that Airbnb has several advantages over traditional hotels. Plus, it’s good news for Miami-Dade taxpayers. The commission should readily approve the measure, and let cities that are pushing back against the rental service duke it out with Airbnb on their own. Monday, Gimenez told the Editorial Board that there is little that can be done to stop the popular movement.

“The sharing economy is here to stay. I don’t think you can regulate your way out of it, but we need to strike a balance,” Gimenez said.

Agreed. Airbnb is a business, as are hotels; and a guest is a guest. All should pony up the tax money.

Here’s the proposal: Airbnb will collect the 6 percent Miami-Dade resort tax from hosts and remit that money to the county every month. It already has similar agreements with half of Florida counties that have a tourist tax. Annually, the estimated take for Miami-Dade will be about $6 million — nothing to sneeze at.

But the mayor says the tax arrangement does not in any way settle Airbnb hosts’ battles with their cities, such as Miami and Miami Beach. Homeowners in some areas of the Beach are prohibited from renting out their homes. And we agree with many residents who are concerned that host homes can become “illegal nuisances” — raucous party homes that endanger their quality of life.

It would make more sense for Airbnb and the cities to sit down and hash out the rules and regs, step up enforcement against violators, and then let responsible homeowners use their homes as they want within the bounds of local and state law.

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, who wants no part of Airbnb, has pledged to crack down on short-term rentals that generate complaints — and the city should. And he wants no part of the county’s tax agreement with the county. He sent a letter to Gimenez Monday morning asking the county to allow the city to opt out of its deal.

Gimenez said his tax deal does not exempt county commissioners from introducing measures to regulate Airbnb and others like it. In fact, he’s encouraging commissioners to do so, which they should tackle swiftly.

Airbnb representatives told the board they are a win-win platform. They say they help the local economy by attracting tourists and generating extra income to those homeowners who rent out their property. Most of Airbnb's 6,800 hosts in Miami-Dade are in Miami or Miami Beach, and they hosted over 500,000 guests last year.

We’re disappointed, however, that there’s an attempted end run around addressing local municipalities’ concerns on behalf of their residents and businesses. A bill in the Florida Legislature, which passed a House subcommittee last week, but failed to move forward on Monday, would prohibit municipalities from curtailing homeowners’ right to rent their property as they see fit. Tying municpalities’ hands is a wholly undemocratic move that should be quashed.