The Real Deal Miami

Miami Beach tightens regulations on Airbnb rentals

New ordinance addresses short-term rentals in condo units

South Beach, Airbnb founders Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine

The law is clear on Miami Beach. Short-term rentals of less than six months and one day are banned in all single-family home districts in the city.

Now, the city is tightening regulations for condominium owners and condo-hotels in the zoning districts where short-term rentals are allowed.

Responding to complaints from residents of condominium buildings where short-term rentals are rampant, the city commission passed an ordinance on Wednesday that says properties rented to visitors and tourists on Airbnb and other services will be classified as “transient short-term rentals.” Any owners who want to rent those properties will first have to notify the city to determine if the property is located in a district where short-term rentals are legal.

If the property is located in such a district, the owners will be required to submit a sworn affidavit to city officials that the property has obtained an appropriate business tax receipt and resort tax registration certificate. If the property is in a condo, the owner will be required to show city officials proof that the condo association allows short-term rentals.

Additionally, unit owners in an apartment hotel or condo-hotel that is not affiliated with a primary hotel operator will have to disclose that fact to potential guests when they are registering. Violators of the ordinance would receive an initial fine of $1,000 followed by fines of $5,000, $7,500 and $10,000 for subsequent violations.

The measure passed unanimously despite complaints from several residents, who said they should be allowed to rent out their condo units as they pleased.

Among the chief opposition: Brian May, a lobbyist for Airbnb, who told commissioners the city was “over-regulating” the issue. He said those who want to rent out their units in areas where such rentals are allowed should be able to affirm in a plain letter that their condominium permits such rentals, rather than have to obtain a formal affidavit from their association. May also said owners should be able to register and get their business tax receipts online.

But Joy Malakoff, one of the sponsors of the ordinance, told The Real Deal that commissioners felt strongly that the burden of proof should be on the owner. “Well, South Florida is the fraud capital of the country and we just felt it was putting too much trust in every condo owner, saying ‘Yes they are going to tell the truth,’” Malakoff said. “If you get an affidavit and a letter from a condo association, we as the governing body of the city feel much more comfortable that they really are allowed to do short-term rentals,” she said.

The new ordinance also tightens regulations on condominiums that have hotel units within them, requiring that such units meet ADA requirements, fire code regulations as well as have staff available to address guests concerns.

Miami Beach authorities have been slapping huge fines on single-family homeowners who rent out their properties on Arbnb and other short-term rental sites like Homeway.com and Booking.com. The city has charged well over a million dollars since it upped fines to $20,000 for first time violators last December. The fines can double and triple for subsequent violations. City officials say the $20,000 dollar fines have helped curb the problem of single-family homes being rented out as party houses to short-term renters.