Airbnb sues Miami Beach over new rules to regulate short-term rental listings

The suit claims the ordinance, which requires municipal registration numbers in Miami Beach listings, would require Airbnb to violate federal law

Jan.January 05, 2019 12:15 PM

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

Airbnb filed a federal suit against the municipal government of Miami Beach over the city’s new ordinance regulating short-term rental properties.

The ordinance requires Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms to post listings for Miami Beach properties only if the listings include proof that the properties are registered with the city.

Short-term rental platforms face fines up to $5,000 for multiple violations if they post listings of Miami Beach properties without a business license number and a resort-tax registration number.

But the ordinance includes an exemption from those requirements for short-term rental platforms that use so-called “geo-fencing” technology, which blocks owners from listing properties in areas where short-term rentals are prohibited.

Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and similar platforms can qualify for the exemption by submitting a monthly certificate to Miami Beach that verifies the deployment of geo-fencing technology to block listings of short-term rentals where they are prohibited.

Property rentals of six months or less are prohibited in most residential areas of Miami Beach but permitted in some areas of the city.

But in a Dec. 14 meeting, attorneys for the city told Airbnb that the use of geo-fencing would not qualify the company for an exemption from the requirement that Miami Beach listings include business license and resort tax registration numbers.

Attorneys for Miami Beach also told Airbnb that its Miami Beach listings must include a city-issued business license number and resort tax registration number.

In its lawsuit, Airbnb argues that the Miami Beach ordinance violates the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA), which shields website operators from liability for content posted by users of their websites.

Airbnb claimed in its suit that the Miami Beach ordinance “would compel Airbnb to do precisely what the CDA prohibits – to monitor, review, alter, prohibit or remove third-party content.”

Airbnb has applied geo-fencing technology by blocking Miami Beach listings in areas where short-term rentals are prohibited. According to Airbnb’s lawsuit, the city extended from Dec. 21 to Jan. 4 the deadline for fully complying with its new ordinance.

Miami Beach hosts who list short-term rental properties on the websites of HomeAway and VRBO are now required to include a business license number and resort tax registration number in their listings, according to a spokesman for both companies. [Miami Herald] – Mike Seemuth

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