In what’s become a nearly weekly occurrence, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) has released a new report on Airbnb’s impact in a U.S. city.

This week, the association turned its focus to Miami Beach, Florida, where, unlike most of the state, short-term rental laws are much more restrictive.

In Miami, any lease shorter than six months and one day qualifies as a short-term rental and in 2008, the city banned all short-term rentals for all single-family homes in residential zones, without exceptions. Today, short-term rentals are only allowed in multi-family buildings in specified areas, and the people who rent them have to apply for a license or certificate to do so. Fines for violating these laws range from $500 to $7,500.

That legislation doesn’t align with the state’s stance on short-term rentals, however. In 2011, Florida passed a law that prohibits local governments from regulating and restricting vacation rentals, including restricting the duration or frequency of rentals. However, any regulations throughout the state that were established prior to 2011 still apply, which is why Miami and some of its surrounding municipalities have been able to restrict and/or nearly ban short-term rentals.

Regardless of what the laws are in Miami, however, short-term rentals are thriving throughout the city. In fact, according to numbers from a recent CBRE Hotels report, Miami is Airbnb’s fourth largest market with 5,199 active units as of September 2015 and generating nearly $100 million in revenue from October 2014 to September 2015.

According to the AH&LA study, which was conducted by Penn State University’s School of Hospitality Management, Miami has the highest percentage of multi-unit hosts and/or hosts who rent out their units on a full-time basis on Airbnb of the 14 U.S. cities reviewed in the report series.

It’s worth noting, however, that the AH&LA advocates on behalf of members of the hotel industry. Like Airbnb’s data about its own operations, it is wise to read it with the understanding that it is not an impartial observer.

The report does however, note the following, in reference to the period from October 2014 to September 2015:

  • More than $76 million, or 62%, of Airbnb’s revenue in Miami comes from operators who listed multiple units for rent
  • $93 million, or 76%, of Airbnb’s Miami-area revenue came from operators who listed units for rent more than 180 days per year
  • Operators who listed their units for 360 days or more per year contributed $47 million to Airbnb revenue in Miami, which comprises 40% of the entire total
  • The two most highly populated zip codes for Airbnb are 33139 (South Beach, South Pointe, City Center) and 33140 (Bayshore, Mid-Beach) and together, they generated revenues for Airbnb totaling more than $57.2 million
  • If Airbnb hosts in Miami were required to pay taxes (state sales tax, city tax, hotel occupancy tax, and a city lodging tax), they would have contributed approximately $15.9 million in taxes.

Airbnb countered the AH&LA findings, calling it a “factually inaccurate study, which was paid for by the hotel industry.”

Airbnb Public Affairs Lead, Christopher Nulty, said in a statement: “The AH&LA is out of touch with the increasing number of consumers and cities embracing the tremendous benefits of home sharing. Vacation rentals have always been a driving force in Miami tourism and now home sharing is broadening that impact and bringing visitors’ dollars to new neighborhoods and small businesses.”

Nulty also noted that in Florida, Airbnb is currently attempting to form a voluntary tax collection agreement in Miami-Dade County, similar to the agreements it has established in 27 other counties in Florida, as well as in cities such as San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.

He said, “We continue to have productive conversations with officials to make it possible to collect and remit hotel taxes in Miami-Dade County and expect to reach an agreement soon.”

Airbnb’s data on Miami, not surprisingly, paints a different picture than the one presented by AH&LA. Last year, more than 87,000 people stayed in an Airbnb unit in Miami and stayed an average of 4.8 nights, and in 2015, the typical Airbnb host made $6,400 by sharing their space for 42 nights out of the year.

The home-sharing platform also notes there’s a difference between when listings are available and when they are actually being booked. While the AH&LA report states that 28% of listings were available for more than 180 days from October 2014 to September 2015, Airbnb has said half, or 14%, were actually booked for more than 180 days. Airbnb’s numbers also show that no listings were booked for more than 360 days during the study period, and only 1% were booked more than 300 days.

It is also worth noting, however, that Airbnb does not have the most transparent record with its data. Last November, Airbnb released data about its daily operations in New York but Inside Airbnb, an independent, third-party Airbnb researcher, found out that the data released had been scrubbed to remove some 1,500 listings that may have been for illegal hotels or commercial operators. Airbnb initially rejected the findings from Inside Airbnb, but later accepted them as an accurate reflection of its actions.

Whether or not those questionable listings were actually booked or not, AH&LA’s main message is that the very fact that there are multi-unit and/or full-time commercial operators on the platform is itself a threat to the local business and residential community.

“Unregulated hotels operated in residential properties are disruptive to communities and pose serious safety concerns for guests, for communities and for neighborhoods,” AH&LA President and CEO Katherine Lugar said in a statement. “In Miami, as in cities around the country, we have seen that Airbnb is unwilling to be transparent with its data and be a partner in creating safe environments for its users and the communities in which it operates. And now we know why: a growing portion of Airbnb’s revenue comes from commercial landlords using the platform to operate unregulated and often illegal lodging businesses.”

She added, “Policymakers in Miami, in Florida, and across the country should act to ensure a fair travel marketplace by closing the illegal hotel loophole.”

Tags: ahla, airbnb, miami
Photo Credit: The American Hotel & Lodging Association's latest report examines Airbnb's impact in Miami. Airbnb