South Florida’s Airbnb Problem

Miami: Sun. Sand. Salsa dancing. Illegal hotels? Oh yes.

Turns out Miami is a national hotbed of illegal hotel activity. A new study of short-term rentals in the Miami area shows that operators who listed residential properties for rent full-time raked in $47 million. That accounts for almost 40% of Airbnb’s Miami revenue — more than any of the 13 other cities analyzed. To put it into perspective, 311 Airbnb operators in Miami who rented out units full-time brought in almost exactly as much as all Airbnb operators in Boston, Chicago, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.

The real kicker? Miami and Miami Beach (not to mention the state of Florida) have strong short-term rental regulations already in place – they’re just not enforced.

And how could they be? As we’ve noted before, Airbnb’s MO seems to be doing whatever they can to prevent policy makers and regulators from actually seeing what’s going on.

For example, the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Florida Department of Revenue and tax collectors in five counties have signed agreements with Airbnb to “collect and remit potentially millions of dollars in tourist-tax revenue” that until the beginning of 2016 had gone unpaid.

This looks like progress, sure, but Airbnb still wants to have it both ways: “How much the online home-booking agency will be collecting and turning in each month remains an open question because of Airbnb’s insistence that the names of people renting out property on its platform be kept secret.”

Airbnb’s insistence on keeping the names and locations of law-breakers a secret doesn’t reflect well on the company. Lou Plasencia, chairman of the Plasencia Group, a hospitality investment advisory firm based in Tampa sums up Airbnb’s tax scheme better than anyone. “It’s like going into a store and paying for some of the stuff that is in your basket, and other stuff you put in your pocket and walk out.”