Airbnb and Miami Beach are at war. Travelers are caught in the crossfire.

Long-time Miami Beach resident Natalie Nichols is one of the few former Airbnb hosts to agree to be interviewed. She is currently suing the city for the hefty fines Miami Beach imposes on homeowners. Ms Nichols said she started renting space in her own home as well as another building she had owned since 2006. But it wasn’t until the 2008 financial crisis that she became dependent on renting. for his income.

That year, she said, “I was fired from a pharmaceutical sales job that I had for 14 years. My long-term tenants stopped paying their rent and broke the leases. Renting her properties short-term has allowed her to earn money and avoid foreclosure, she said, as well as pay taxes, a mortgage and insurance.

But complaints about short-term rentals have multiplied and the city has cracked down more and more. Landlords caught illegally renting are fined $ 20,000 the first time they are caught, with the fine increasing in increments of $ 20,000 for each time they are caught. For a second offense, an increased fine of $ 25,000 may be added if the house is 5,000 square feet or more.

A fine of $ 20,000 was sufficient for Ms Nichols, who said she sold one house and lived in the other without having the income to maintain it.

“I’m depleting my retirement savings and the city has taken a business from me that should have generated income and helped me through retirement,” she said.

In December, MerkAveli, an artist from Boston, traveled to Miami Beach for Art Basel. He booked a shared room on Airbnb for a weekend but due to car issues he had to extend his stay, which his host, a woman named Dina, welcomed. As Dina was out one morning, code compliance officers knocked on the door and told Mr. Aveli the rental was illegal and he had to move out. Dina returned home and tried to advise Mr. Aveli on what to say if the police returned to make sure he was gone.

“The lady wanted me to tell Housing that I was her boyfriend,” Aveli said. “I didn’t. Instead, I showed them my receipt and was sent there.

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