Airbnb Update

Posted on Posted in Blog

Short-Term Rental of homes and apartment negotiated and agreed upon through on-line platforms such as Airbnb, Homeaway, VRBO, etc., are considered a positive example of the new “Sharing Economy” and “Collaborative Consumption.” Property owners and even renters can capitalize on sharing their largest asset: their home. This sharing concept is praised by some as a ‘democratized marketplace.’

The appeal of being hosted in someone’s home instead of a hotel is not just for the cost-savings but also for the peer-to-peer connection with real people. Many users want to give their money to a human host, a family, and not a cold corporate conglomerate. It makes people feel good to use these Short-Term Rentals. Airbnb, Homeaway, VRBO, etc., give millennials that authentic local organic bespoke experience they want to share with their friends. Easy access to Short-Term Rentals also provides other generations with unique travel experiences for meeting up with family. The choice between either staying in a multi-bedroom house on the beach with the opportunity to share a leisurely breakfast with the grandkids versus sleeping in separate hotel rooms to hurriedly meet downstairs in the hotel lobby only to wait for a table and an overpriced egg, is compelling travelers to seek out Short-Term Rentals.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Short-Term Rental market proliferation caused by AIRBNB and the like, are also said to be depleting the supply of low-cost and workforce housing for residents. For municipalities these Short-Term Rental platforms are just ways of not sharing revenue. Most hosts and the platforms that support the Short-Term Rental market are circumventing licensure requirements and failing to collect the requisite taxes. Until just recently, the on-line platform’s response to community after community can best be described as belligerent and at worst could be summed up as: We are too big to bother with complying with your little community’s laws – that is between your little municipality and the hosts.
Short-Term Rentals have a long history of animosity in South Florida. Evidence that South Florida dislikes the practice can be found in many of our local municipal ordinance, codes, homeowner and condominium association documents and they date all the way back to when the cavemen used real estate agents, travel agents and newspapers to advertise Short-Term Rentals. Enforcement of those rules and regulations has, fortunately or unfortunately, been noticeably absent.

Recently, however, the Miami Herald reported that Miami Beach has decided to get tough. Miami Beach leads the nation in the fight against illegal Short-Term Rentals fining both the host and the platform $20,000 per illegal host! The amount of the fine is the highest in the nation, and there is talk it isn’t high enough. Miami Beach has hired Code Enforcement Agents solely for the purpose of seeking out and fining the illegal Short-Term Renters and the platforms that assist them. States and local governments throughout the United States are gearing up to tackle the illegal market. The State of New York recently adopted a new law targeting illegal Short-Term Rentals with fines.

This shift in enforcement action is taking place all over Florida as well. Key West has reportedly used undercover agents to weed out and fine people engaging in illegal Short-Term Rentals. Enforcement of rules against illegal Short-Term Rentals is trending. Condominium Associations are beginning to file lawsuits against the hosts and the on-line platforms for breaching Short-Term Rental rules. Is it only a matter of time before Florida Real Estate Commission realizes that these platforms are acting as unlicensed real estate agents and brokers, a third degree felony? Will they start going after hosts for aiding and abetting the unlicensed platforms?

If you are using AIRBNB, Homeaway, VRBO or the many other platforms to share your home or rental property, you could be facing fines and liens. Contact us if you need assistance in determining whether you are in compliance with your local rules and regulations. These rules have been on the books in many South Florida communities for decades, and it seems increasing the enforcement of these existing laws and regulations will be the more common approach going forward.

Strong, Colin, “Airbnb and Hotels: What to do about the Sharing Economy,” Wired, 2014.
Walker, Robert, “A City Weighed Down by the Welcome Mat,” The New York Times, March 6, 2016.
Herrera, Chabeli, “How $20,000 fines have made Miami Beach an Airbnb battleground” Miami Herald, November 27, 2016
Filosa, Gwen, “Key West cracking down on vacation rentals,” Miami Herald, May 16, 2016.