Draconian $20,000 Airbnb Fines in Miami Beach Struck Down by Circuit Court Judge

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge’s Order Blocking $20,000 Airbnb Fines Stirs the Pot on Perpetually Controversial Airbnb Rentals

On June 26, 2018 property owner Natalie Nichols sued the City of Miami Beach challenging local ordinances §§ 142-905(b)(5) and 142-1111. Miami-Dade Circuit Court, c/n 2018-21933-CA. The ordinances ban short-term rentals of less than six months, with few exceptions, and impose an outsized $20,000 fine for a first offense. A second offense results in a draconian $40,000 fine and subsequent fines each increase by $20,000 up to $100,000.

Nichols argued that Florida State Statute § 162.09(2)(d) provides that fines shall not exceed $1,000 per day for the first offense and $5,000 for repeat violations. Accordingly, the Miami Beach ordinances are in direct conflict with Florida state law, which trumps the conflicting local ordinances. Nichols also brought a facial challenge to the constitutionality of the ordinances.

In response, the city argued that there is an “opt-out” provision in Chapter 162, specifically based on language that permits a municipality “to adopt an alternate code enforcement system.” Florida Statutes §§ 162.03(2). Section 162.13 further provides that “[n]othing contained in [Chapter 162] shall prohibit a local governing body from enforcing its codes by any other means.”  The City alternatively argued that the $20,000 fine does not conflict with Florida Statute § 162.09 because the statutory cap is per day and the City’s $20,000 fine is per violation.

On October 8, 2019 Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael A. Hanzman sided with the homeowner and entered an order declaring the Airbnb ordinances “in conflict with State law, illegal and unenforceable.” Entering an injunction, the court blocked the City of Miami Beach from enforcing the ordinances.

The City appealed the order to the Third District Court of Appeal. 3D19-1954. The appeal has been fully briefed and is pending a ruling.           

If you have a question regarding your rights and obligations under Florida, California, New York, Texas, Washington, DC, Maryland or Massachusetts laws, we are here to help. Attorneys at Chase Law specialize in real estate matters. Feel free to call us at (305) 402-9800 and we will be happy to help.