WIRED: Inside Airbnb’s ‘Guerrilla War’ Against Local Governments
“Read my lips: We want to pay taxes,” Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s global head of public policy, told the nation’s mayors in 2016. In the years since, the home-sharing site has repeated the declaration in press releases, op-eds, emails, and on billboards. On its website, Airbnb says it is ‘democratizing revenue by generating tens of millions of new tax dollars for governments all over the world.’ But when Palm Beach County, Florida, a popular tourist destination, passed an ordinance in October 2018 requiring Airbnb and other short-term rental companies to collect and pay the county’s 6 percent occupancy tax on visits arranged through their sites, Airbnb sued. (Read More)
The Atlantic: Airbnb Has a Hidden-Camera Problem
When Max Vest shook hands with the host of his Miami Airbnb back in January, the man introduced himself as Ralph—even though “Ray” was the name he’d used in all their prior communication. This was the first and only indication that something was wrong. But his host had a great rating on the home-sharing site, and many of the comments mentioned how friendly and accommodating he was. So Vest, a children’s-camp director from Gainesville, Florida, didn’t think much of the discrepancy and settled into the two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment he’d be sharing with Ralph—or was it Ray?—and his girlfriend for the next five days. At about 8 or 9 p.m., he went out for dinner; by the time he got home, his hosts had gone to bed in the room adjacent to his, and he prepared to do the same. That was when he saw the light. Two small, black, rectangular boxes were stacked next to an outlet on the far side of the guest room, both facing the bed. From afar, they looked like phone chargers. But when Vest got closer, he realized they were cameras, and they were recording. (Read More)
Florida Politics: New Poll Shows Floridians Strongly Support Local Control of Short-Term Rentals
A new poll found Florida voters want local governments to have the final say in short-term rental regulations. The St. Pete Polls survey asked 1,400 registered voters whether they wanted the state or local government in charge of rulemaking for vacation rentals. The pollster phrased the question in two different ways. The first asked whether voters wanted one set of rules for all neighborhoods across Florida or if local communities should be able to set their own. Faced with that question, seven in 10 voters said local rules should trump all. Another 21 percent said they preferred a statewide system while 9 percent were undecided. (Read More)
Miami Herald: Huge Fines, Midnight Busts: Inside Miami Beach’s War on Short-Term Rentals
In apartment 9A of a two-story 1920s Miami Beach building, a sunburned couple from Charlotte was staying the weekend after booking the apartment on Hotels.com. In 6A, three generations of women from Argentina were visiting via Despegar.com. In 4B, two young women from Amsterdam were celebrating a 21st birthday; they found the listing on Booking.com. In 9B, a young woman from Colombia insisted she had rented the place from a friend for the long weekend. The apartment building — 1518 Drexel Ave. — is in an area of the city where short-term rentals of six months or less are illegal. Yet two years after the city enacted steep fines to prevent owners from renting apartments to tourists — $20,000 for the first violation, $40,000 for the second, and so on — a thriving short-term rental market persists. (Read More)
New York Times: Airbnb and Miami Beach Are at War. Travelers Are Caught in the Crossfire
Miami Beach and Airbnb are at war. And travelers are caught in the crossfire. In the increasingly heated war between the rental companies and communities, renters like David Igbokwe and his friends, who unwittingly book rooms that are being offered illegally, are the collateral damage. They can end up out on the street, out hundreds of dollars and in need of a new place to stay, sometimes in the middle of the night. (Read More)
NBC News: At an Airbnb? You Might Be on Camera, Whether You Like It or Not
Hidden cameras in Airbnbs, the stuff that vacation nightmares are made of, are feeding a growing sense of consumer paranoia over surveillance. Cameras have been found in fake smoke detectors over a bed. In another case, an Airbnb guest allegedly placed a camera inside his host’s bathroom disguised as a cellphone charger. In New Zealand, a bridal party said it found a camera hidden in a lightbulb. An NBC News review of Airbnb listings in San Francisco found disclosed security cameras in less than 1 percent of rentals. (Read More)
Orlando Sentinel: Opinion – Local Governments Should Regulate Short-Term Rental Property
As the Florida Legislature reviews numerous legislative proposals this session, a key issue impacting Florida’s neighborhoods and homeowners will be proposed legislation to pre-empt the ability of local officials to enact and enforce appropriate regulations on short-term rentals. Similar legislation has been proposed in past years without success, and this year’s proponents have already jumped into the ring with SB 824, which seeks to give lawmakers control over local short-term rental ordinances. This is an issue that continues to increase in relevance as the number of short-term rental properties across Florida keeps growing. This is no longer just an issue facing tourism hot spots like South Beach. (Read More)
Florida Watchdog: Two Bills Seek State Preemption in Regulating Vacation Rentals
Vacation rentals – exactly what they are and if the state or local governments should regulate them – will again be a hotly debated topic when the Florida Legislature convenes its 60-day session on March 5. At least three Senate bills related to the state’s $31 billion short-term rental industry have been pre-filed thus far, including two that would give oversight to the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s (DBPR) Division of Hotels and Restaurants. Sen. David Simmons’, R-Altamonte Springs, Senate Bill 812, and Sen. Manny Diaz’s, R-Hialeah Gardens, SB 234, are both pre-emption bills, limiting local governments’ capacities to impose restrictions on short-term rentals and giving the state that authority. (Read More)
CNBC: How Criminals Use Uber and Airbnb to Launder Money Stolen from Your Credit Card
Cybercriminals are turning to new technologies to launder their ill-gotten gains, including recruiting fake Uber drivers, shady Airbnb hosts and crypto conversion specialists via the underground dark web, experts say. … For at least the past two years, cybercriminals have used increasingly creative methods centered on “gig economy” apps like Uber and Airbnb, according to Mador. The schemes work to filter dirty money through several automated systems, eventually making their way back to the criminal clean. (Read More)
CityLab: The Airbnb Effect: It’s Not Just Rising Home Prices
D.C. is restricting it. Florida might stop investing in it. New Orleans is trying to ban it completely. Across the country, legislators are not happy with Airbnb. Since it was founded in 2008, the short-term rental platform has been the subject of several critical research papers that have blamed it for raising housing prices, changing employment dynamics, and taking chunks out of city tax revenue. A new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute attempts to more comprehensively catalog these local impacts—and measure what, if anything, cities get out of the deal. To better align the costs and benefits, the study’s author Josh Bivens argues, cities need to start treating Airbnb like any other hotel business, and regulate it accordingly. (Read More)
USA TODAY: Deaths at Airbnb Rentals Put Spotlight on Safety and Security
Since debuting in 2008, vacation rental website Airbnb has grown to five million listings in 191 countries. It is in more than 81,000 cities. Over the years, Airbnb has provided travelers with alternatives to hotel rooms, for the most part without incident. But in recent weeks, a couple of deaths have raised questions about the safety of Airbnb rentals. … Could Airbnb have done anything to prevent these deaths? (Read More)
WPEC CBS 12 News: Man Crawls Into Bed with Women Staying in Boynton Beach Airbnb
Two young women are outraged after they say a creepy man crawled into bed with them. They say the man didn’t touch them, but the experience left them flabbergasted and demanding answers. The Airbnb listing the women provided advertises a gated and quiet private room in Boynton Beach for $45 a night, but the women — who are in their twenties — say that didn’t stop his creepy cuddling. (Read More)
WPLG Local 10 News: Undercover Operation Leads Police to Sunny Isles Beach Home
Police from multiple agencies served a search warrant Thursday morning at a home in Sunny Isles Beach. Sunny Isles Beach Police said an undercover operation led authorities to the home on 189th Terrace. At least five people were sitting outside the home. Some of them were handcuffed. Police later said two people were arrested as part of an ongoing fraud investigation. Sources told Local 10 News the property’s owner set up illegal efficiencies inside and rented them on Airbnb. A neighbor said he’s seen “sketchy activity” at the home. (Read More)
KMSP Fox 9 News: Twin Cities Softball Team Falls Victim to Fake Rental Home Listing in Florida
WINK News: Police Bust Underage Party in Rented Naples Home
The Verge: How Conservative ‘Property Rights’ Groups Are Battling Cities’ Airbnb Rules
Inman: Airbnb Will Rapidly Expand Line of Co-Branded Apartment Buildings: Report
Miami New Times: Miami Beach Might Fine Airbnb and Other Platforms for Illegal Short-Term Rentals
Bloomberg: Surprise, You Live in a Giant Airbnb
Florida Politics: League of Cities Gives Airbnb A Dose of Snark
Tampa Bay Times: Indian Rocks Beach Is Latest City to Get Creative in Regulating Short-Term Rentals
Skift: Tenants of New Airbnb-Branded Complex in Florida Feel Blindsided
Florida Politics: Opponents strike back on Ashton Hayward’s Airbnb commercial
Financial Times: Airbnb Plans Five More Complexes After Its First Florida Apartments
Flagler Again Takes Vacation-Rental Case To Tallahassee as New Battle Lines Are Drawn
Troy Flanagan Op-ed: Florida Lawmakers Must Protect Tourism By Addressing Illegal Rentals
Mashable Editorial: Airbnb Is Opening Its Very Own Apartment Building (That Sounds A Lot Like A Hotel)
Carol Dover Op-Ed: Protect Florida Tourists, Neighborhoods By Stopping Illegal Hotel Operators
Daytona Beach News-Journal Editorial: Let home rule prevail on rentals
The growing short-term rental industry, exemplified by the online home-sharing service Airbnb, has sparked a debate about property rights and government regulation, and the effects it has on traditional commercial rentals and neighborhoods. It’s a debate that should be conducted in local communities, not decided in Tallahassee. (Read more)
Herald-Tribune Editorial: Let communities set rules on rentals
Republican lawmakers have been known to criticize Big Government overreach and argue for deferring to the government closest to people. We hope that several of those Republicans are members the Florida Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee, which is scheduled today to take up an egregious example of overreach, Senate Bill 188. (Read more)
Mayors Levine, Regalado hold anti-Airbnb meeting while protesters decry crackdown
On Monday, Regalado said the ban, which if passed would prompt Miami code compliance officers to “go after the people that are doing commercial activity in the residential areas,” is only the first step. The city will then look to extend the regulations to condo buildings. (Read more)
Wall Street Journal: Hoteliers Cast Airbnb as Fast-Growing Professional Rival
Industry analysis characterizes website as more like a sophisticated rental operation than a casual business. (Read more) ““It’s the commercialization of residential property, and that doesn’t have a place in our neighborhoods.”
Huffington Post: Who’s Protecting Airbnb’s Guests from Discrimination?
Airbnb is determined to exert its will whether a community wants it around or not. The company has shown little respect for established laws, zoning and regulations in municipalities and an unwillingness to compete on a level playing field with legal hotels. In San Francisco, for example, they passed a bill to their liking in the city council after a hyper-aggressive lobbying campaign, but then sued the city because they didn’t want their own tailor-made bill enforced. (Read more)
EDITORIAL: Why Locals Should Decide
A vote for home rule isn’t the same as support for strangling the home-sharing industry. Rather, it’s affirmation that local governments know better than Tallahassee how to craft regulatory frameworks that best fit their communities, and that they are more easily held accountable for their actions. (Read more)
Tallahassee Democrat: Airbnb’s Florida record seems less than transparent
“Florida taxpayers do not get to pick and choose which laws to follow or what taxes to pay, how much to pay, and when to pay. Airbnb should live up to its stated commitment to transparency and payment of taxes, and provide the proper data to tax authorities and the public.” (Read more)
Palm Beach Post: Airbnb threatens Florida B&Bs, endangers consumers
“What sense does it make that unlicensed Airbnb property owners are not held to the same standard as traditional, licensed bed and breakfasts? To protect consumers, requirements like proper insurance, fire safety codes for commercial properties, existing local zoning laws, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act should be applied evenly to the short-term rentals next door. A simple solution would be requiring short-term rental operators to register like any other business and be required to provide the license/registration number in every advertisement.” (Read more)
On demand platforms offering short-term rentals, like Airbnb, have found a place in Florida’s economy. When we see grandma using Airbnb to rent out a spare room that helps supplement her social security income, we marvel at how technology has given us new ways to use, and profit from, the things we own. But some people are taking advantage of this emerging industry.
Investors, often those from foreign countries, are buying up properties for the sole purpose of renting them out like hotel suites using Airbnb and other short term rental platforms. By operating in this manner, they’re essentially running a hotel business, but dodging the requirements and protections to which real hotels must adhere. These illegal hotels put your safety and property values at risk. Not only are illegal hotels not playing by the rules, but they are also not paying their fair share in taxes.
ILLEGAL HOTELS NEXT DOOR
These unregulated hotels operating in residential areas drive huge profits while disrupting communities and posing safety concerns for guests and neighbors. Do we really need to explain what Spring Break in your condo or neighborhood looks like and how it affects your property value? Residential communities are simply not zoned or designed for commercial traffic and use.
FLORIDA: A HOTBED OF ILLEGAL HOTEL ACTIVITY
Miami is one of the largest epicenters of illegal hotel activity in America. A recent study shows how landlords are getting rich from listing short-term residential properties full-time. These operators raked in $47 million in just one year. That’s nearly 40% of Airbnb’s revenue in the region. That’s not home sharing, that’s a commercial enterprise.
CLOSE THE ILLEGAL HOTEL LOOPHOLE
Unfortunately, the regulations governing this type of activity haven’t caught up with the times. Meanwhile, Airbnb is doing whatever it can to hide the growth in commercial activity on its platform from policymakers and the public, arguing that only grandma is posting on its site. That’s why we are urging Florida’s state and local lawmakers to strike a balance and close the “illegal hotel loophole.” Lawmakers need to act in order to protect communities and ensure all commercial lodging operations are operating as such.
Follow us on Twitter @AirbnbWATCHFL.
AirbnbWATCH Florida Launches Effort to Protect Floridians from Illegal Hotels in Residential Areas that Disrupt Communities & Pose Safety Concerns
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Tallahassee, Fla. – AirbnbWATCH Florida, a neighborhood watch group of concerned individuals and organizations, today launched its effort to bring attention to illegal hotel operations in residential areas that are disrupting communities and posing safety concerns for Floridians.
“We’ve got a year-round Spring Break happening next door to us with new people we don’t know coming in and out at all hours of the night,” said Tom Alderson, a Seminole County resident who lives next to a house rented on Airbnb. “It’s not only bad for our property values, it’s horrifying when strangers start showing up in your neighborhood night after night. Legislators shouldn’t wait for Airbnb to move in next door to them before regulating this. They won’t like it either, that’s for sure.”
Over the past 3-4 years, the home-sharing industry has grown exponentially with companies like Airbnb rising in popularity, especially in high-tourism states like Florida. However, instead of Airbnb being the concept that it was spurred from, this industry has created a new type of host, a commercial operator that buys up properties from the housing market for the sole purpose of renting them out like hotel suites – often multiple units available for rent year-round – using Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms.
“What sense does it make that Airbnb’s unlicensed property owners are not held to the same standard as traditional bed and breakfasts?” said Florida Bed and Breakfast Inns Executive Director Patricia Detwiler. “To protect consumers, following fire and safety codes, operating in accordance with existing local zoning laws, and complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act should be applied evenly to the short-term rentals next door. I say a simple solution would be requiring short-term rental operators to register and be required to publish a license number when advertising.”
“I’ve joined this group of likeminded, Florida-based individuals and organizations because it is time our voices are heard and these growing number of commercial investors, who are many times from foreign countries and coming in and profiting from illegal hotel operations and disrupting our communities, are stopped,” said Stefano Frittella, owner of Pelican Hotel in Miami. “Residential communities are simply not zoned or designed for commercial traffic and use, and Florida is becoming a hotbed of illegal activity.”
As an example, close to home, Miami is one of the largest epicenters of illegal hotel activity in America. A recent study conducted by Penn State University School of Hospitality shows how landlords are getting illegally rich from listing short-term residential properties full time, raking in $47 million in just one year – that’s nearly 40 percent of Airbnb’s revenue in the region – making it no longer home sharing, but a commercial enterprise.
To increase awareness of these illegal hotel operations that are disrupting communities and posing safety concerns to residential areas in Florida, AirbnbWATCH Florida members have begun distributing yard signs to concerned neighbors across the state.
- STUDY: From Air Mattresses to Unregulated Business: An Analysis of the Other Side of Airbnb (2016)
- City Spotlight Miami
- FACT SHEET: Voluntary Collection Agreements