Airbnb is generally seen as a good way for homeowners to monetize those empty bedrooms in their houses when they need extra cash. However, some cities like Miami are not fans. When Miami considered banning “short-term” leases like those offered by Airbnb, some opponents of this ban showed up during the comment period to air their views. Before the opponents were permitted to speak, they were required to share identifying information that included their names, addresses and phone numbers. Now that the ban has passed in a 3-2 vote, these opponents may now be targeted for the simple “crime” of showing up.
Airbnb Ban in Miami
“We are now on notice for people who did come here and notify us in public and challenge us in public,” Daniel Alfonso, Miami city manager, told the Miami Herald. “I will be duly bound to request our personnel to enforce the city code.”
This basically means that the city could specifically target individuals who showed up and participated in the political process simply because they opposed a measure that could compromise an important stream of revenue for them. City authorities are not always reasonable or consistent when enforcing city codes. I have friends whose city governments forced them to butcher harmless chickens they kept in their back yard for the eggs while completely ignoring a neighbor’s dog that had repeatedly gotten loose and bitten them. Miami is very likely to use this new addition to the code to target individuals who are not harming anyone by renting out bedrooms in their house through Airbnb, rather than pursue the code’s stated purpose of penalizing those who refuse to deal with “nuisance” renters.
Miami might be taking a cue from nearby Miami Beach, in which individual fines for renting out properties can run as high as $20,000 and whose mayor has tweeted to Airbnb’s official Twitter account that “We don’t want what your [sic] selling!!!”
This is a blatant attack on individuals’ right to do as they wish with their property that will inevitably have implications for Florida’s economy, which relies heavily on tourism. Hotels near popular attractions such as popular Miami-area beaches, the Space Coast and Disney World are routinely booked full during the heaviest of the tourist season and Airbnb could generate extra revenue by taking care of the “overflow” during these periods. While it may be reasonable for cities to shut down on renters that are actually creating a nuisance by damaging property or generating too much noise at night, this does not mean that there should be a blanket ban on a service that is capable of generating extra income for homeowners who need it.
Despite the unreasonable nature of the Miami ban, a February survey by pollsters Mason & Dixon found that 93 percent of Florida residents said Airbnb should be legal, and 65 percent of Floridians polled by Mason & Dixon said local governments shouldn’t regulate homesharing apps at all. So it’s reasonable to assume that Floridians see Airbnb for what it is: a way to monetize what would otherwise be an “idle asset” that does not generate an income for its owner. Many of the Floridians who list rooms in their homes on Airbnb may have done it out of financial uncertainty in the wake of the economic meltdown of 2008. It’s a way to diversify sources of income in an environment where the homeowners might lose their jobs, lose value in their investment portfolios, or otherwise run into a situation in which they might not be able to stay in their homes anymore because they can’t afford it.
However, Miami doesn’t see it that way and has paved the way to retaliation against homeowners and Airbnb renters who spoke up against the ban. As Miami Beach’s mayor has shown in his tweets, city governments are often unwilling to consider the benefits of taking a laissez faire attitude toward short-term rentals or even have a reasonable discussion of the matter. This is harmful to homeowners who may not know that they actually have the legal right to do as they wish with their own properties as long as it actually harms no one and may not have the resources to fight back.
What do you think of the Airbnb ban in Miami? Let us know in the comment section below.