Miami Beach Plans to Use Alarming Ads to Scare Away Airbnb-Style Renters

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Miami Beach has based its economy on the fact that strangers love to visit and get drunk there. But it wants residents to know that offering those strangers a place to stay through websites such as Airbnb is not an option. 

In the majority of residential Miami Beach, it's illegal to let renters stay in a property for less than six months and one day, ostensibly making Airbnb-style rentals illegal. Now, Miami Beach is about to unleash a PR campaign complete with a host of D.A.R.E.-style ads asking residents to help the city "watch over your neighborhood" and keep Airbnb-style renters out of town.

The ads are included in a letter that City Manager Jimmy Morales sent to the Miami Beach City Commission September 1. Morales' note does not say when the ads will begin popping up in Miami Beach, but it does say the images will be distributed both in person and on social media.

The city has also created a #PracticeSafeRenting hashtag to accompany the campaign.

"Illegal transient rentals (short-term) of residential properties throughout the City creates excessive vehicular noise and traffic, and causes adverse impacts on surrounding residences, negatively impacting the quality of life in those residential neighborhoods," Morales wrote. "To that end, the Communications Department created a public service campaign designed to educate the public on the illegality of short-term rentals in unsanctioned neighborhoods and the penalties to be incurred."

Here's a copy of the letter, along with copies of six print ads the city plans to run. (Scroll down to see the ads.)

In one ad, an evicted man sits on a curb holding his head, with his luggage on the ground next to him.

"Avoid an eviction hangover," the ad reads. "Booking an illegal short-term rental can result in an immediate vacating of the premises."

In another, a group of evicted women holds their bags while strolling across a street.

"Avoid the walk of shame," the ad says, referencing the kinda-sexist term for when women are seen walking home in club attire the morning after a one-night stand.

A call to the city's public relations manager, Melissa Berthier, whose office created the ads, was not immediately returned.

The PR campaign appears to be the next step in the city's increasingly high-profile crackdown on short-term renting. In March, the city upped the fine for renters caught breaking the law from $500 for a first violation to a whopping $20,000. From March through August, the city then levied $1.6 million in fines and evicted 31 renters caught shacking up illegally in an apartment.

While homeowners in town claim short-term renters are turning quiet, residential parts of town into rowdy, South Beach-lite party zones, the folks receiving the fines are pretty upset.

"I'd understand if they wanted to ban weekend rentals, but [the six-month ban] is completely unreasonable," said one landlord who spoke to New Times anonymously for fear the city would fine him. "It's just so over-the-top. It just shows the hotel lobby has a much stronger hold on this administration."

Another property broker in town, Ross Milroy, questioned whether the city's crackdown was even legal, because state law prohibits cities from regulating vacation rentals themselves. Because Miami Beach's initial ban existed before 2011, its law was grandfathered in — but Milroy wonders whether the city should lose its grandfather status after ratcheting up fines to $20,000 a pop.

City Commissioner Michael Grieco then called that allegation "nonsense."

According to Morales' letter, the city began prepping its ad campaign this past April. In preparation for the rollout, the city even bought the website practicesaferenting.com, which redirects to the City of Miami Beach website.

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