Airbnb hits Miami Beach with lawsuit over regulation

Airbnb filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Miami against the City of Miami Beach with accusations that it’s unfairly regulating its short-term rental business.

There’s a lot at stake for Airbnb in this litigation. Miami-Dade County is by far the largest market in Florida for Airbnb hosting guests, the company has disclosed in previous reports. Miami Beach is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the county and traditional hotel rooms there can be expensive to book, so short-term home rental can be an attractive alternative.

Miami Beach officials have been strictly enforcing the city’s rules on short-term rentals – anything less than six months and one day. The city prohibits short-term rentals in all single-family homes and in most of the multifamily buildings, and fines for violating these rules start at $20,000.

The city passed its ordinance regulating short-term rentals in September 2018. It required short-term rental platforms to take down postings in violation of the city’s rules. Miami Beach could fine a home-sharing platform $5,000 per violation of this rule.

According to its lawsuit, Airbnb offered to voluntarily “geofence” – not post listings located in areas where short-term rentals were prohibited. However, the city also wanted to require the website to ask users in Miami Beach to enter a registration number required by the city that would prove they had permission for a short-term rental, or else not allow the listing, according to the lawsuit.

Airbnb said in its lawsuit that the city’s policy is illegal and it’s misreading its own ordinance. The company said this rule would “impermissibly regulate the structure and operation of Airbnb’s platform by forcing Airbnb to create a mandatory field for registration numbers in third-party listings.” Airbnb said it would be an undue burden for the company to verify the authenticity of the numbers entered by the customers.

The company wants to block the city from requiring that mandatory field on its website. It’s represented by attorneys David M. BucknerChad Golder, and Adele M. El-Khouri.

Airbnb said it has started the geofencing in Miami Beach.

Read more of this South Florida Business Journal article by Brian Bandell by clicking here.