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GMBHA in the News: Miami Beach has shut down Airbnb amid COVID.

With many hotels and motels on the brink of bankruptcy and Airbnbs heavily regulated, legal short-term rental options are running low in Miami-Dade County.

The county reopened hotels and motels on June 1 with new safety measures and restrictions, including mandatory mask-wearing for guests and staff, capacity limits for common areas, and pet, gym and minibar bans.

In July, hotels began to recover from record lows of 10 to 15 percent of their historical occupancy rates in April and early May, climbing to up to 40 percent on the weekend of July 4, according to countywide data by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

But occupancy began plummeting again in mid-July, as Florida’s confirmed COVID-19 cases surged. On July 12, Florida reported 15,300 new confirmed cases, according to the Florida Department of Health — a single-day record in the United States since the pandemic began.

Occupancy rates fell to nearly 30 percent across the county in mid-July, forcing dozens of hotels to shut down indefinitely, the data shows.

“Our hospitality and tourism industry has been hit the hardest from this disaster with unemployment, the inconsistency of the openings, the closings,” said Wendy Kallergis, president and CEO of The Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association.

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County enforced new restrictions on short-term rentals and Miami Beach shut down all short-term rentals on July 15, meaning you had to leave the Beach and couldn’t book a future reservation for the time being.

Hundreds of Airbnb and VRBO hosts are offering discounted rates to lure guests to come back, but some could face criminal charges for violating county or local emergency orders.

Hosts still offering rentals are in violation of the city’s emergency order and could be subject to “arrest and criminal persecution,” according to Melissa Berthier, a spokesperson for the City of Miami Beach.

HOTELS, MOTELS

Members of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association — including some of South Florida’s largest hotels, Fontainebleau Miami Beach and Loews Miami Beach Hotel — were filling just over 20 percent of their rooms from July 7 to July 18, according to Kallergis.

South Beach Group Hotels – which already had to furlough hundreds of employees in March – said they were sold out for the weekend of July 4, but guest volume dropped dramatically in the following weeks.

Last week, the group announced that it would be shutting down 16 locations in Miami Beach including its 4-star Croydon Hotel in Mid-Beach and all-suites Riviera Hotel in South Beach — and lay off hundreds of staff members.

“I am hopelessly optimistic that we can reopen soon,” said the group’s general manager, Chris Rollins, “but we don’t have an exact (date). No one has a crystal ball.”

These hotels and hostels are currently not accepting reservations:

  • Metropole South Beach at 635 Collins Ave.
  • Whitelaw Hotel at 808 Collins Ave.
  • Chesterfield Hotel at 855 Collins Ave.
  • Posh Hostel at 820 Collins Ave.
  • Hotel Shelley at 844 Collins Ave.
  • Chelsea Hotel at 944 Washington Ave.
  • Sunbrite Apartments at 1330 Pennsylvania Ave.
  • Catalina Hotel at 1732 Collins Ave.
  • Lincoln Arms Suites at 1800 James Ave.
  • Riviera Hotel at 318 20th St.
  • Tradewinds Apartments and Hotel at 2365 Pinetree Dr.
  • Croydon Hotel at 3720 Collins Ave.
  • Oceanside Hotel at 6084 Collins Ave.
  • Waterside Hotel at 7310 Harding Ave.
  • Seaside Apartment Hotel at 7500 Collins Ave.
  • Beachside Hotel at 7710 Harding Ave.

The Hyatt Regency in Coral Gables temporarily shut its doors, and plans to reopen Saturday, while other Hyatt locations remain open with revised safety and health standards.

The Marriott Group continues to operate at its 40 Miami-Dade locations, with new “Commitment to Clean” standards, including contactless check-ins and checkouts and deep-cleaning protocols for rooms and common areas.

Also open, 1 Hotel South Beach, 2341 Collins Ave., is sanitizing guests’ luggage with UV technology and offering socially distanced dining.

All hotels and motels in operation continue to follow the county’s health and safety standards, including:

  • Hand sanitizer dispensers placed at entrances and in common areas. Hotels should also provide guests with spray bottles of hand sanitizer, when available;
  • Signs reminding staff and guests to stay safe in English and Spanish;
  • Elevators at 50 percent capacity, with at least 3 feet between occupants;
  • Valet parking suspended when on-site parking is available;
  • Reception desks equipped with a medical kit that includes extra face masks, disinfectant wipes and gloves;
  • No water fountains, buffets or salad bars and enforced social distancing in dining areas;
  • No pets allowed, except for service animals

Guests at waterfront hotels can use the beaches, but have to have a mask on hand, are required to keep a social distance of at least 6 feet and can’t be in groups larger than 10, according to county guidelines.

Similar restrictions apply to hotel and motel pools, which reopened on May 29.

To book a free self-isolation hotel room, call 305-614-1716 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or learn more here.

AIRBNB, VRBO AND SHORT-TERM RENTALS

While the new discounted prices of short-term rentals on websites like Airbnb and VRBO may be inviting, many are also in violation of county and local emergency orders and don’t have to follow the same health standards as hotels and motels.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced in early July that visitors can only book short-term stays if they’re staying in the county for a month or more. He extended the emergency order Wednesday to last until Thursday, July 30.

The mayor also limited the number of people who can stay in each rental, citing short-term rentals being used as “party houses.”

“Daytime and overnight occupancy for short-term vacation rentals is now set at a maximum of two persons per bedroom plus two additional persons per property not to exceed a maximum of 10 persons,” he said in the county’s July 22 emergency order.

In Miami Beach short-term rentals were banned altogether on July 15, when the city ordered all hosts to cancel existing reservations and shut down future operations.

Airbnb and VRBO are displaying warning signs above search results inviting guests to check local travel restrictions, but more than 300 stays in Miami Beach were still available on Airbnb and nearly 100 listed on VRBO Tuesday.

Berthier, the Miami Beach spokeswoman, said the city has not set an expiration date on the ban.

“At this juncture, and considering the current spread of the COVID-19 virus, the City is unable to provide a definitive timeframe for the continued length of this prohibition,” she said.

Misinformation could be one of the reasons why Miami Beach listings are still available.

Airbnb said it “created resources to provide our community with the latest information on local travel restrictions and advisories, including… updating ourtravel restriction directory page.”

However, the company’s directory link to Miami Beach restrictions on Tuesday led to an outdated emergency order signed on April 29 — before the short-term rental ban went into effect.

While VRBO does not detail COVID-19 travel restrictions on its platform, a company spokesperson said Thursday that “VRBO notified all homeowners and property managers with Miami Beach property listings on July 16 about the order, what it entails, and how to remain in compliance.”

County health and safety standards for short-term rentals are less strict than for hotels and motels, but still require that hosts:

  • Provide printouts from the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Preventionto guests on how to protect themselves from the virus and what to do if they are sick;
  • Add cleaning procedures to their amenities lists and property descriptions;
  • Follow hotel-standard cleaning procedures, as required for other lodgings;
  • Remove spare blankets and pillows, unless they are cleaned between stays;
  • Offer remote check-in options, when possible;
  • Post signs highlighting the property’s cleaning protocols.

AIRBNB SAFETY TIPS

  • Do not travel if you’ve recently been exposed to or have symptoms of COVID-19. More info here;
  • Research local travel alerts and warnings. Here’s a list of government travel advisories;
  • Read the ratings and reviews and reach out to your host;
  • Check cancellation policies.

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