Miami Beach puts off new rules for Airbnb rentals until December

City attorney says his staff needs ample time to review proposed regulations

Nov.November 10, 2016 02:15 PM
Miami Beach and Airbnb founders Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk and Brian Chesky

Miami Beach. Inset: Airbnb founders Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk and Brian Chesky

Miami Beach city commissioners on Wednesday delayed approval of new regulations impacting Airbnb and other short-term lodging websites. 

The commission will now take up the matter at its December meeting to give city lawyers time to review tweaks suggested by the San Francisco-based company.

“In the spirit of compromise and the spirit of trying to work with the city, we would encourage you to add these amendments,” said Brian May, a lobbyist for Airbnb. “The city of Miami Beach is a high-profile, important place for Airbnb and other platforms.”

However, City Attorney Raul Aguila told commissioners his staff had not be given ample time to review Airbnb’s suggestions. “I don’t think the city has ever taken a position to work against Airbnb,” Aguila said. “However, I haven’t had time to look at the proposed amendments to consider the impact to the city.”

As proposed in the new regulations, properties rented out to visitors and tourists via Airbnb and similar websites and mobile apps would be classified as “transient short-term rentals.” Owners seeking to rent out their properties would be required to notify the city in order to determine if the homes or condos are located in areas of the city where short-term rentals are allowed.

If a property is within the zones where short-term rentals are allowed, owners would be required to submit a sworn affidavit to the city that the home or condo has obtained the appropriate business tax receipt and resort tax registration certificate. If the property is located in a condo, an owner would have to provide proof the condo associations allow transient short-term rentals. Unit owners in an apartment-hotel or condo-hotel not affiliated with a primary hotel operator would have to disclose that fact to potential guests.

Airbnb is suggesting the city allow property owners to submit a verification form as opposed to a sworn affidavit because it is less cumbersome, May said. “A sworn affidavit would require it to be physically notarized,” May said.

The city has doled out more than $1 million in fines to violators of their short-term rental laws, which the commission increased in December from $500 to $7,500 to fines starting at $20,000.

May also said Airbnb and other providers can allow property owners to file the forms with the city digitally on their websites or mobile applications. “We can facilitate that through the online platform,” May said. “Normally, we have done this through memorandums of understanding with other jurisdictions. We would like to pursue that with the city.”

The hotel industry has also been a big proponent of regulating and taxing Airbnb and similar websites.

Michael Llorente, an attorney for the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, argued Airbnb’s suggestions were significant amendments made at the last minute. “We would urge the commission to move forward with the legislation as it has been drafted,” Llorente said. “I personally don’t see the need to push off the entire process because of a litany of suggestions made at the 11th hour.”

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