Florida Bill Would Stop Local Governments From Banning Airbnb

City commissioner frets that Airbnb users aren't paying "the tourist development tax" and other special taxes targeting visitors.



Since March, when Miami Beach, Florida, banned homeowners from using websites like Airbnb to conduct short-term rentals, the city has handed out more than $1.6 million in fines.

The crackdown, the Miami New Times wrote in August, has been "swift and brutal" including fines of up to $20,000 for a single violation.

Homeowners in Miami Beach and other parts of the Sunshine State might be getting a reprieve from local ordinances that violate their property rights when the Florida General Assembly reconvenes. Legislation introduced this week by state Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) would preempt local short-term rental regulations passed since 2011 and would prohibit local governments from enacting future restrictions on rentals made through services like Airbnb and HomeAway.

"Innovative technology platforms, such as those that provide people the opportunity to share their homes, have the ability to dramatically improve the lives of local citizens and provide billions of dollars in economic impact to the state," said Matt Kiessling, vice president of the Travel Technology Association, in a statement to Reason.

Steube's bill, Kiessling said, "sends a clear signal that Florida intends to be a leader in public policy for the sharing economy."

The state legislature does not convene until early March, but the bill could be moving before that. It could be up for consideration by an interim committee before the end of the month, though the timeline is still uncertain.

Stuebe told the Miami Herald this week that he sees short-term rentals as a property rights issue.

Indeed, it is. Local governments already set zoning rules and have other ways to regulate what homeowners can do with their property. If renters are violating noise ordinances, committing crimes, or otherwise endangering the lives and property of other people, they should be held accountable for their actions, of course.

But blanket restrictions on short-term rentals punish otherwise law-abiding residents from being able to use their property as an extra form of income. States should be prudent when interfering in how local governments conduct business, of course, but local control is no guarantee of liberty.

In Miami Beach and elsewhere in Florida, local officials have caved to special interests that seek to restrict new technology like Airbnb in order to protect hotels. Local officials are also upset because tourists using Airbnb aren't getting gouged by special taxes that many localities have imposed on hotels, seeking to drain dollars from visitors' wallets.

"They're not paying the tourist development tax, they're not paying the sales tax. The hosts are pocketing that money," complained Elaine Poe, Madeira Beach city commissioner, to FloridaPolitics.com last year when other Airbnb proposals were percolating in the state legislature.

Poe told the website that Madeira Beach, located on the Gulf Coast near St. Petersburg, is "busting everyone we can bust" and bragged about how she has "reported probably upwards of 250 to the Tourist Development Tax board."

Poe's comment should be a reminder that opposition to Airbnb and other short-term rental services isn't really about protecting neighborhoods from unwanted visitors and short-term renters. It's really about the money. Money that hotels make from being the only game in town, and money that governments make by helping protect hotels' interests while taxing the people who stay in them.

NEXT: Is Sugar an Addictive Killer? New at Reason

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

    1. Sheriff Fire


    2. Motive unknown…

      Until the shooter’s name is revealed. Of course, depending on the name, we may never know the real motive.

      1. +1 Workplace violence

      2. Fort Lauderdale is full of vacationing oligarkii. Another Russian plot maybe?

      3. Senator Nelson says the shooters name is Esteban Santiago.

        1. Nelson also said that the shooter fired three magazines, then sat down, at which time police moved in.

        2. sounds like a white hispanic to me /derp

  1. They have a reasonable argument in favor of collecting taxes, but not in favor of banning.

  2. Perhaps Eric Boehm could debate Scott Shackford:

    “Larger governments telling local government what kinds of laws they can pass is bad, and I say that regardless of whether I support whatever law. If there is a civil liberty that is being violated, it needs to be tackled under a constitution or charter and then pushed to a court to rule upon. Why on earth should politicians outside of [Miami Beach] have veto power over the laws of that city?”

    1. Poe told the website that Madeira Beach, located on the Gulf Coast near St. Petersburg, is “busting everyone we can bust” and bragged about how she has “reported probably upwards of 250 to the Tourist Development Tax board.”

      Private bathroom police you say?

      1. If I look up *your* reservation on Airbnb, show up unexpectedly at your destination to confirm you’re there, and then make an unwanted call to the Tourist Development Tax Board, would the CDC consider that stalking?

        1. Depends. Do you look like Ryan Gosling? If so, you have nothing to worry about.

    2. Under the constitution, the 10th amendment protects the states. Unless the state constitution says otherwise, there is nothing protecting the cities from the states.

      Whether it is a good idea or not to truly decentralize all the down is another issue. I would be fine with the general principle as long as it doesn’t stop at the city or even neighborhood level.

      So, sure the state of Florida cant stop Miami from having an anti-BNB law. But the city of Miami can’t stop a neighborhood from overturning that. And even if so, the neighborhood (and thus the city and thus the state and thus the Feds) cant stop a household from having a pro-BNB law.

    3. The first time I heard about state laws banning localities from regulating something, it was states stopping localities from implementing gun control.

      Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any such state laws that aren’t pro-liberty. Its kinda implied – they are stopping the locals from passing laws, after all.

      Shackford’s bumbling attempt at promoting local rule to create liberty was an embarrassment. Apparently, he has a lefty’s concept of freedom (“I’m free to force people I don’t like to do what I want”), not one based on rights.


      1. And it isnt just the courts responsibility either. Lawmakers have sworn an oath to uphold the constitution, and I think property rights are covered by even state cons, so the lawmakers have a DUTY: to overturn city laws like this.

        1. And if you look at the passage I quoted from Shackford, he contrasts limitations imposed on local governments by “consistution[s] or charter[s]” and limitations imposed by “politicians.”

          Who do you think writes those charters and constitutions? The local nonpartisan gardening club?

          1. (I misspelled “constitutions”)

          2. See my 2:28 comment.

            The question I have for Shackford would be “why does the city have veto power over the laws of the householder”?

            I won’t take if further than that, because I am dictator over my daughter, I do have veto power over her. She can have sovereignty when she pays her own way.

            1. So, do you give your daughter the opportunity to leave and support herself?

              (Someone has to step in for Nicole and go overboard defending the rights of young children)

              1. She is 1 year and 1 day old. If she can prove she can support herself and wants to be emancipated, sure, she can walk 3 steps out the door and fall on her face.

    4. Why should politicians outside of my household have any power over me?

      1. “your” household.


  3. It’s always about them getting their bribe with these people, isn’t it?

  4. “They’re not paying the tourist development tax, they’re not paying the sales tax. The hosts are pocketing that money,” complained Elaine Poe

    *channeling Marisa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny* OH MOI GAWD,WHAT A FUCKIN’ NOIGHTMAYAH!”

    1. I prefer to channel Marisa Tomei from The Wrestler, but each to his own.

  5. Hey Poe, you are the greedy free rider expecting the tourists to pay for all the infrastructure goodies that you and your fellow residents enjoy.

    1. Can someone think of a joke about “Poe’s law,” my creative juices aren’t flowing very well right now.

      1. You know who else had zero respect for private property rights?

        1. Edgar Allen?

        2. The goddamn raccoon that keeps breaking into my attic?

        3. My mother?

  6. This and the NC bathrooms bill are both examples of the red-America blue-America divide. Blue enclaves try to pass local legislation and the largely red states preempt/counteract them with state legislation. This is why local and state elections are important. This is why it’s important that per-county vote maps look like this.

  7. Great. Why live next door to one Florida Man when you can get 365 different ones a year.

  8. Finally, a legitimate use of the commerce clause.

    1. Oops. Not. Florida state,

      But…in the spirit.

      1. “Did someone say ‘commerce clause’? Where’s my rubber stamp?”

        /Supreme Court

  9. I have it on good authority that vacation rentals are just a means to steal homes away from honest hardworking American families.

  10. Local control is largely good, but only for purely practical reasons. There is nothing preferable about having a local busy-body trampling my rights compared to someone in Washington doing the same.

    Yeah, you can move if the local government sucks. But leaving behind your home, property and community isn’t a small burden.

    If the Federal government’s only job was to invalidate state and local laws that violate people’s rights, I think I’d be pretty OK with that.

  11. The Austin fingerprint registry scheme they wanted to impose on uber and lyft was in reality a stealth sales tax on transportation services, something that is illegal under Texas state law.

  12. When I’m a tourist, I don’t want to be developed.

  13. AirBnB and other ways for homeowners to make a bit of income on their property are a good thing. They attract different kinds of guests than hotels do, and thus do not so much cut into hotels’ share of the pie, as they expand the pie.

    In response to the objections raised in this thread,

    1) It’s not true that AirBnB’ers don’t pay bed tax. Many AirBnB’ers DO pay the bed tax. And by making it legal, we will encourage more of those folks to pay the tax.
    2) To reduce disruption to neighborhoods, vacation rentals could be limited to owner-occupied properties. By only allowing residents to engage in this form of commerce, we cut down on the “vacation rental ghost-town” problem.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.