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Ousted Tenants Sue Landlord After Their Apartments Turn Up On Airbnb

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Two women who were ousted from their rent-controlled Fairfax apartment are suing the property owners and Airbnb after those apartments popped up on the homesharing site.Carrie Kirshman and Nina Giovannetti were neighbors at a Spanish villa-syle apartment at 500 N. Genesee Ave. in Fairfax. They each paid under $2,000 per month for their two-bedroom apartments, the L.A. Times reports. Given the skyrocketing rents in Los Angeles, that sounds like one heck of a deal, which the women enjoyed due to rent control. However, the pair were both evicted by the property owners under the Ellis Act in 2013. The Ellis Act allows a landlord to kick out all tenants if they decide they no longer want to be involved in the rental business, but it means they need to demolish the property or completely exit the rental market.

Kirshman told the Times that she'd lived there for 21 years, and neither woman could afford to continue to live in the neighborhood as similar apartments were now renting for twice as much. Both moved to Mid-Wilshire in 2014.

So what became of the women's apartments? Well, they found them on Airbnb. Given the prices the landlord was charging for a nightly rental, the women said that the property owner now stood to make a maximum of $15,000 per month.

The women's lawyers, Randy Renick and Nancy Hanna, filed a claim on Wednesday in L.A. County Superior Court against Airbnb as well as property owners LSJB Investments LLC and Carol Alsman. They say the property owners have violated the city's Rent Stabilization Ordinance. An official with the Housing Department, however, said that the landlord in this case would have to rent the apartment for 30 days or more to the same person via Airbnb to be in violation.

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"By terminating long-term tenancies and dedicating rental units to short-term stays, landlords evade the city's rent-control regulations and unfairly cash in on higher nightly rates," the suit says.

Airbnb has issued a statement against landlords who "illegally evict tenants and abuse platforms like ours in search of a quick buck."

Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), a pro-labor organization, has accused Airbnb of making L.A.'s rental crisis worse because greedy property owners would rather keep apartments vacant and use them to make money on Airbnb and similar platforms than rent them to actual Angelenos. Airbnb has argued against this accusation, saying that many of the rental options on the site are residents renting out a portion of their home to make extra cash, or renting out their home while they're out of town. Los Angeles has considered cracking down on the use of the site, making sure that only people who actually live in a property can rent out a portion of it, a backhouse or the whole thing while they're away.

The Ellis Act, signed into law in 1986, permits 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, they can opt to tear the whole thing down and build new apartments altogether. The Ellis Act is responsible for evicting tenants from 725 units in 2014, up from 308 in 2013, according to the L.A. Times. Some of these properties include Jim Morrison's former West Hollywood apartment and the historic Villa Carlotta in Hollywood. Since 2001 nearly 19,000 rent-controlled units in Los Angeles have been removed by property owners. And here's a fun interactive map of Ellis Act evictions just in Santa Monica.