This is a rare case where Airbnb has the law on its side. While Miami officials likely think they're fighting for locals' rights, they're in the wrong in regards to a state law which is widely favorable to vacation rentals.
The home-sharing platform Airbnb is suing the city of Miami, where officials threatened to crack down on hosts who publicly protested regulations prohibiting short-term rentals.
According to the lawsuit filed Friday in Miami-Dade County by Airbnb and five individual hosts, the city violated the First Amendment rights of hosts who spoke up at a March 23 city commission meeting.
At that meeting, commissioners voted 3-2 to reaffirm zoning regulations prohibiting short-term rentals of single-family homes in Miami’s residential areas. City Manager Daniel Alfonso then said code compliance officials could start targeting Airbnb hosts who placed their names and addresses on the record to attend the meeting and protest those regulations.
“The City is now acting to make good on those threats,” the lawsuit said. “Airbnb stands together with its Miami hosts in opposing the City’s unlawful efforts, and in particular stands with the brave individuals who have come forward and seek to protect their rights as individual plaintiffs in this action.”
Three off the hosts listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit attended the March 23 meeting. Airbnb officials have said the company has 2,300 active hosts in Miami.
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, who opposes Airbnb, told The Miami Herald that Airbnb encouraged its hosts to attend the commission meeting, knowing they would have to provide their names and addresses in order to participate.
“There is no First Amendment issue here and there is no retribution,” Regalado said.
Regalado said the city attorney plans to send cease-and-desist orders to Airbnb hosts who spoke at the commission meeting. They could face fines of $250 per day.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare vacation rentals legal in residential areas of Miami, to stop the city from adopting new ordinances against short-term rentals, to prevent any legal action against the hosts and to deem unlawful the city commission’s policy of requiring personal information in order to speak up at public meetings.
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