Controversial new rules that effectively ban homesharing services in Miami are being challenged in court by Airbnb and five city residents who say their fundamental rights have been violated.
The lawsuit, filed Friday, is a response to Miami's crackdown on Airbnb and the city's decision to target enforcement actions against residents who spoke out against the new rules at a public hearing last month. Those new rules have caused the plaintiffs and Airbnb to lose potential rental income and risk fines, according to the lawsuit.
"The city has recently undertaken an aggressive anti-Airbnb campaign that includes threats against individual Airbnb hosts who attended a city commission meeting to publicly voice their support for vacation rentals in Miami," part of the lawsuit states. The five plaintiffs say they want courts to block the city from enforcing the new anti-Airbnb ordinance.
The city did not respond to Reason's request for comment Monday morning.
As Reason previously reported, both Miami Mayor Thomas Regalado and Daniel Alfonso, Miami city manager, indicated last month that they would target enforcement actions against residents who attended a public hearing on the Airbnb ban. Alfonso told the Miami Herald that the city was "on notice" for individuals who would "challenge us in public."
The notion that city officials would single-out people who spoke up against a public policy simply because they spoke up in public is quite disturbing. Instead of focusing on nuisance tenants or short-term rentals that are drawing complaints from neighbors (if there are any), they are choosing specifically to target members of the community who are engaged in the political process and are trying to make their voices heard.
The lawsuit filed Friday says those threats "seek to deprive members of our community of their fundamental rights — property rights, free speech, the right to petition without fear of retribution."
Targeting law abiding citizens aside, the outright ban on Airbnb does not make much sense. Cities should enforce existing nuisance laws against renters (or homeowners) who are creating problems for neighbors. Preventing law-abiding residents from renting extra space in their homes—and then targeting residents who exercise their right to voice opposition to city policies—is not protecting anyone and is arguably pulling enforcement officers away from other, more important duties.
City officials might not like Airbnb, but most Floridians do. A February survey by pollsters Mason & Dixon found that 93 percent of Florida residents said Airbnb should be legal, and 65 percent of Floridians polled by Mason & Dixon said local governments shouldn't regulate homesharing apps at all.