Judge issues restraining order to stop Miami from enforcing ban on short-term rentals

Airbnb founders and Mayor Tomas Regalado
Airbnb founders and Mayor Tomas Regalado

A Miami judge issued a temporary restraining order late Wednesday, stopping the city of Miami from enforcing its ban on short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods.

The ruling by Judge Beatrice Butchko of Florida’s Eleventh Judicial Circuit came less than a week after Airbnb and five Miami homeowners sued the city to stop Miami officials from enforcing bans on short-term rentals and for targeting Airbnb hosts who publicly identified themselves.

Judge Butchko ruled that the city of Miami was preempted by Florida state law from banning short-term rentals. She also stopped the city from requiring residents to provide their names and addresses when speaking at future city commission hearings, as a result of threats made by Mayor Tomas Regalado and City Manager Daniel Alfonso to target Airbnb Miami hosts who spoke at a March 23 hearing.

Airbnb hailed the ruling as an initial victory. “On behalf of our Miami host community, we are grateful to the court for giving this important matter immediate attention,” Airbnb said in a statement. “We are hopeful that it will result in relief and fair treatment for the 3,000 Miamians who responsibly share their homes on Airbnb.”

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Mayor Regalado and Alfonso could not be immediately reached for comment.

Airbnb, along with Yamile Bell, Toya Bowles, Gary Levin, Ana Rubio and Kenneth Tobin filed suit last Friday, which stated that the Florida Legislature passed a law in 2011 prohibiting cities and counties from enacting ordinances that prohibit or unduly regulate vacation rentals. Airbnb alleges that Miami government officials, under pressure from the hotel industry, ignored state law and without legal authority began prohibiting vacation rentals on Aug. 11, 2015.

The lawsuit also alleges that the city is trying to take advantage by claiming an exemption for cities and counties that had regulations on vacation rentals prior to June 1, 2011. “The city, however, did not have any such ordinance or regulation which expressly prohibited vacation rentals,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, it attempted to belatedly and impermissibly reinterpret its existing zoning code, Miami 21.”