Victory for property owners as Florida Court rules city’s astronomical short-term rental fines are “illegal and unenforceable”

Miami Beach homeowners won a resounding victory on Monday when a Florida trial court struck down the city’s home-sharing ban and declared that its $20,000 to $100,000 fines for short-term rentals violate state law.

“This ruling vindicates the property rights of all Miami Beach homeowners who share their homes as short-term rentals,” said Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Matt Miller, lead attorney for plaintiff Natalie Nichols, a Miami Beach homeowner. “Home-sharers in Miami Beach no longer have to fear that they will end up in financial ruin for exercising this essential property right.”

Home-sharers across the country choose to rent their homes to overnight guests as a way to earn the money to pay a mortgage, make home improvements, or send a child to college.  But in Miami Beach, just a single violation could bring a home-sharer to the brink of financial collapse. Indeed, Miami Beach was—until Monday—home to the highest home-sharing fines in the country.

The Goldwater Institute argued that Miami Beach’s home-sharing fines are excessive and violated state law. The court agreed. Judge Michael Hanzman of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida issued a 26-page opinion in which he found that the City’s fines “are in jarring conflict with [state law] and are therefore illegal and unenforceable.”

Florida state law protects homeowners from excessive local fines. As the Court recognized, these $20,000 to $100,000 fines vastly exceed the $1,000 per day limit set by the Florida legislature. Nichols applauded the Court’s ruling, not only because it restored her property rights, but also because of its impact on her community.   

“Like many others in Miami Beach, I bought properties in a resort town in a neighborhood where it was, at the time, legal to conduct short term rentals,” Nichols said. “At the height of the recession, when property values had dropped 75%, the city stripped us of our property rights, directly causing foreclosures and short sales. I am pleased that the court ruled to protect property rights today. This is a win for our community and visitors and should revitalize our great city.”

The Court declined to rewrite the ordinance for the City, instead striking down the restrictions entirely. That means that home-sharing is no longer illegal in Miami Beach (although rules prohibiting nuisances and other problem behavior may still be enforced). And as local real estate expert Ross Milroy explains, that’s good news for Miami Beach homeowners.

“Since banning short-term rentals, property owners in Miami Beach have been irreparably harmed,” Milroy said. “Over the past few years, they have experienced a significant loss in property values and incomes, while being stripped of their property rights. This is a much-needed step to restore confidence in the real estate market.”

The Court’s ruling sends a loud and clear message that extends beyond the boundaries of Miami Beach. “Cities across Florida should take note: draconian fines and unreasonable bans that punish responsible homeowners violate state law,” said Goldwater Institute Executive Vice President Christina Sandefur. “Cities can respect property rights, embrace economic opportunity, and regulate effectively if they focus on enforcing nuisance ordinances against bad actors.”

The Goldwater Institute is the nation’s leading advocate for property rights and is fighting on behalf of homeowners in states across the country. In addition to Miami Beach, the Institute is challenging home-sharing bans in Seattle, Chicago, and Pacific Grove, Calif. Learn more at https://goldwaterinstitute.org/home-sharing/

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