Miami Beach escalates battle with Airbnb, threatens jail for renters



As the Miami Herald reports, violations for operating a business without a license currently result in a civil offense, punishable by fines up to $1,000.

The Miami Beach Commission voted Wednesday to escalate a third violation to a criminal offense. And each day in violation is a “new” offense, meaning a three-day rental could mean jail time for the host.

Commissioners advanced the proposal by a 4-3 vote. But a final vote on the measure must still be held. That vote will take place Oct. 17.

Miami Beach currently bars the rental of properties in residential zones for much of the city. “To legally rent out such properties, owners must obtain a business tax license from the city and pay annual fees,” according to the Miami New Times.

These new criminal violations would apply to hosts who skirt that requirement.

Miami Beach has a history of issuing skyrocketing fines to both renters and vacation rental websites, such as Airbnb. The measures have sought to protect permanent residents from rowdy renters popping into the city for days at a time.

It’s not a problem unique to Miami Beach. But Tom Martinelli, Airbnb’s Florida policy director, says Miami Beach’s approach is over-the-top.

“We are disappointed by the city’s decision to double down on a law that even they admit isn’t working,” Martinelli said in a statement to the Miami Herald.

“We stand by our position that our hosts and residents in Miami Beach deserve comprehensive short-term rental reform that addresses the fundamental flaws in the city’s existing system.”




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