The scene is set. You’ve arrived in Miami to find sunny skies, avoided the pitfalls of the airport and make your way to a friendly taxi driver who whisks you to the address on your phone. Upon arrival at your Airbnb, everything is better than expected and the neighbourhood is nicer than hoped. For once, it seems everything is going your way, until you hear the knock.
“City of Miami, open the door”.
This weekend the New York Times profiled Miami’s prolific crackdown on Airbnb’s, which sees guests uprooted in the middle of the night by city code enforcement teams, which might as well be referred to as the Airbnb Police. This may seem extreme, but Miami says its residents have seen enough and rules (fair, or not) are the rules. How kicking someone who isn’t personally breaking any rules out of a safe environment in the middle of the night helps, we couldn’t tell you…
In Miami, 1737 short term housing investigations were carried out last year alone, with more expected in 2019. Airbnb is currently suing the city of Miami for its new laws, which require geofencing around certain neighbourhoods due to zoning restrictions which prohibit short term rentals, and also Airbnb listings which are not registered.
Whether this style of enforcement is a fear tactic designed to dissuade potential Airbnb renters and protect well greased local hotel magnates, or a legitimate means of enforcing an important policy is for each person to decide. One thing is for certain: Ii you are Airbnb’ing in Miami, guests need to be selective of where, otherwise they may find themselves dislodged in the middle of the night. If it looks like strong arm tactics and feels like strong arm tactics, it may very well be strong arm tactics…
The beauties of Airbnb are easy to find. For starters, entrepreneurs can turn nights away from home into cash by renting out their living space. For a road warrior, or avid traveller, this is an incredible way to share a favorite locale with the world, while helping to offset living costs. For travellers, the Airbnb experience provides the thrill of discovering unique or indigenous neighbourhoods and more competitive pricing. In its best essence, Airbnb is people helping people travel.
The pitfalls of Airbnb are equally easy to find. Hotels require strict certification, taxation and safety inspections, which generally benefit the public. Airbnb’s don’t. Locals in quiet neighbourhoods in once idyllic buildings aren’t too keen on drunk travellers, turning up and singing “Don’t Stop Believing” in the halls at 3AM. It’s a fair point, and until you live next to an Airbnb, it’s one few people can fully understand.
Each city around the world has taken its own steps and measures to find a balance, with cities like Tokyo allowing Airbnb to continue most fairly, with simply registration, minor fee requirements and a maximum on the number of days a place can be rented, to prevent abuse. Los Angeles is going further, allowing a maximum number of Airbnb units per person, with strict maximums on the number of dates a property can be rented with rules kicking in this July. Hong Kong has done its best to ban Airbnb entirely.
An apartment building meant for locals, which is effectively converted into an Airbnb factory is a problem for everyone, and not just from a safety perspective. It’s a hotel in everything but name, and mandatory living standards.
More and more often, the line between an entrepreneur renting out a sole, or second living space, and an opaque housing conglomerate running 1,000 Airbnb rentals is being blurred, which makes it hard to distinguish an Airbnb from a hotel. Some Airbnb operators are said to bring in more than $40,000 a day, and New York recently cracked down on a multi million dollar business, which was alleged to be fraudulently renting apartments, which it would then illegally profit from as Airbnbs.
The interesting factor with many current Airbnb rules, such as those in New York and Miami, is that ultimately it’s the landlord who gets screwed and not the Airbnb lister themselves. Many landlords live out of state, or certainly not on property and are ultimately the ones who face the steepest fines for having illegal listings in their buildings.
Sure, a landlord can put a clause in the lease that apartments are not for sub listing, but enforcing or policing this is virtually impossible. It’s hard to understand why Miami chooses to pursue this line of enforcement, rather than those hosts who are knowingly breaking local laws or at the very least, local guidelines. This style of punishment is ridiculous.
When this happens, it ruins local housing prices, and often neighbourhoods with them. It’s said that an Airbnb operator can turn a profit with two weeks of occupancy or less, thus driving local housing prices through the roof while diminishing quality of life for those in the immediate area. In cities like Barcelona, it’s killed entire neighbourhoods. Miami is clearly looking to protect something with its new enforcement ramp up, but whether it strikes the correct balance is yet to be seen.