Six tenants in Los Angeles recently lost their apartments because it was a rent-controlled building. The landlord evicted the tenants and stated that the building would undergo remodeling. Very shortly after their evictions, one of the tenants discovered their unit was available to stay at on the Airbnb website. He spoke with other victims in his building and at least six of them discovered the same situation. The tenants have filed a lawsuit against the building owner and Airbnb, they cite that the eviction was illegal and violates Los Angeles rent control laws.

airbnb eviction caseThe RSO, Rent Stabilization Ordinance, applies to buildings built prior to October 1, 1978, in Los Angeles that are used as apartments. It states that the rent shall only increase 3% annually and 4% annually if the landlord pays gas and/or electricity for the unit. There are also parts of the law that state the reasons for a valid eviction and the payout sum if the tenant must demolish the building for reconstruction. If the tenant violates some negotiations of the rental terms such as late rent or illegal or malicious behavior then the owner has cause to evict the tenant. If, as in this case, the landlord decides to evict the tenants in order to demolish the building and rebuild, as a newer set of units, to raise the rent, the owner must pay out the moving costs to the tenant along with an additional sum for the inconvenience. This owner, in this case, did not pay anything to the tenants. This is a direct violation of the RSO law. The landlord’s attorney addressed the issue stating that the units are still intended to be demolished in the coming month. The unit currently stands as is, two months after the fact.

The evicted tenants are also suing the company Airbnb. Airbnb is refusing to comment on the issue but points to their business model that the site is intended for individuals to use to generate extra income and not for landlords to use as a hotel. The evicted tenants are claiming that Airbnb worked in a joint venture to skim money off the units.

If the building was going to be demolished, then the tenants should have been able to remain on the premises, as long as it was safe to live in. If any of them left early of their own free-will, then the owner does have some ability to allow paying guests to stay there, but kicking long-term residents out of their homes prematurely, is against Airbnb’s policy and Los Angeles law. In Los Angeles, an owner can remove a tenant if they plan to take it off the market. In this case, the unit remained available but at a higher rate. Los Angeles is currently facing a 30,000 unit housing shortage, which will make the situation difficult for the evicted tenants as they will most likely pay a drastic increase at their new units. Given the move-out costs and now the legal fees of litigation, the landlord might not see profits from this decision.

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