by Jennifer Tiedemann
July 26, 2018
It’s the middle of summer, the perfect time of year to think about driving or jetting off for some fun in the sun. But one favorite vacation hotspot—Florida—continues to rain on travelers’ parade by cracking down on the practice of home-sharing through fear and fines.
In a new op-ed for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Tom Martinelli, Airbnb policy director for Florida, delves into the problem. Home-sharing—homeowners sharing their homes with overnight guests—has been a popular practice in the Sunshine State for about a century. Given Florida’s popularity as a vacation destination, this practice “evolved into one of the backbones of Florida’s economy,” Martinelli writes. The development of new online rental tools and technologies in recent years have only made home-sharing easier and more accessible to more people, “provid[ing] new ways for this traditional industry to reach consumers and energize the economy, while allowing seniors and empty-nesters with a spare, private room to take part in the economic activity as well.”
Furthermore, home-sharing is wildly popular among Floridians. As Goldwater Institute Executive Vice President Christina Sandefur pointed out in a recent In Defense of Liberty post, more than nine in ten Floridians support home-sharing. And this support is strongly bipartisan, because home-sharing isn’t a political question: It’s a question of being able to exercise a fundamental right.
But some local governments are trying to take this right away, fine it out of existence, or scare homeowners from participating. Sarasota County Property Appraiser Bill Furst wrote in May that Floridians who share their homes may be violating the terms of their homestead exemptions. But as Martinelli points out, that argument is wrong and misleading: The law clearly shows that home-sharers renting out a room or a guest house are in no such danger. To suggest otherwise is to frighten Sarasotan home-sharers for no reason.
And across the state from Sarasota is Miami Beach, home to the most astronomical fines for home-sharing in the entire country: Fines for a single home-sharing violation start at $20,000 and go up to $100,000. Sandefur wrote in her recent post that these penalties clearly violate the Florida Constitution, which “protects people from excessive fines that are ‘grossly disproportional’ to the person’s action. For many of these homeowners who have rented responsibly for years, these fines make up a large percentage of their home’s actual worth. If $100,000 is not ‘excessive,’ it’s hard to say what is.”
With home-sharing under attack in Florida and in places throughout the United States, the Goldwater Institute is taking action to stop the trend toward greater restrictions on this property right. We recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Miami Beach to protect home-sharers (as well as similar lawsuits against Seattle and Pacific Grove, California). Critics of home-sharing argue that it causes noise, trash, and traffic violations, but there are already ordinances on the books to keep those violations in check. Cities and towns should enforce these ordinances, rather than erecting roadblocks that take away responsible homeowners’ property rights.
Read Tom Martinelli’s full op-ed here, and for more information about what the Goldwater Institute is doing to protect the right of home-sharing from coast to coast, visit https://goldwaterinstitute.org/home-sharing/.
Jennifer Tiedemann is the communications manager at the Goldwater Institute.