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Landlords Accused Of Operating Illegal Hotels Through Airbnb

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L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer has filed complaints against the owners of four rent-stabilized apartment buildings who are accused of operating them as hotels, or listing units on Airbnb and similar sites. This is the first time that the City of Los Angeles has taken this kind of action, the L.A. Times reports. However, the idea that landlords are snatching affordable homes to cash in on the sharing economy has been a controversial one for quite some time in Los Angeles, a city with skyrocketing rent.

The details of the four properties are outlined in a release from the City Attorney's office. The owners of a 32-unit building at 417 Ocean Front Walk in Venice are accused of advertising the property as a hotel, complete with its own website. The same accusations have been leveled at the owners of a 30-unit building at 1305 Ocean Front Walk, which has also allegedly been advertised as a hotel.

In Hollywood, a 59-unit building at 830 N. Van Ness Avenue is accused of calling itself as Hollywood Dream Suites Hotel. You might be familiar with this one, as this pink building actually looks like a quirky, old hotel. Its owner, George Panoussis, is accused of refusing to allow inspectors access to the property eight times.

On Yelp, it has one-and-a-half stars and one recent guest wrote:

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I think the room would have made an awesome studio apt. It felt very homey more like we were in Someone's room at their house rather than a Hotel which isn't a bad thing. Just different.

All three were ordered to stop acting as a hotel by Los Angeles Housing & Community Investment Department (HCIDLA) and allegedly failed to comply, according to the release.

Carol J. Alsman, who owns a four-unit apartment building at 500 North Genesee Ave. in Fairfax has been charged with six counts including failure to comply with an Order to Comply, zoning violations, illegal use without proper building permits, failure to file notice of intention to re-rent, failure to offer rental to displaced tenants, and renting property within five years after withdrawing from the rental market under the Ellis Act.

Carrie Kirshman and Nina Giovannetti, two tenants who once lived in the apartment, said that they had each paid less than $2,000 per month for their two-bedroom apartments. Kishman had lived there for 21 years. However, they were both evicted in 2013 under the Ellis Act, only to later find the units on Airbnb.

The Ellis Act, signed into law in 1986, allows landlords to evict all of their rent-controlled tenants if they intend to convert their building to another use, such as a condo or hotel, or seek to tear the whole thing down and build new apartments.

However, the law also demands that landlords pay for evicted tenants to move somewhere else, and must tell those tenants if they plan on renting the units out again any time within the next five years. The complaint filed by Feuer's office alleges that the units were going for over $550 a night on the home sharing site, according to the Times.

The City Attorney's office plans to send a list of Ellis Act properties to Airbnb and similar sites in order to prevent any other sites being similarly listed.

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