Airbnb, an app that provides an online marketplace for people looking to temporarily rent vacation homes, made headlines this week for adding to Los Angeles' housing burden. Recently found to be the most unaffordable city in terms of rent by UCLA researchers, Los Angeles is a tenant's nightmare. Finding a rental property is nearly impossible, and Airbnb certainly isn't helping. In response to the growing housing problem, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office has filed suit against the owners of four properties primarily used as Airbnb rentals.
The prosecutors' ar gument centers on an alleged violation of California's Ellis Act, which allows landlords the unconditional right to evict all tenants in order to go out of business. Typically, Ellis Act evictions occur to change the use of the building. The Los Angeles city prosecutors believe that the owners evicted rent-control tenants in order to put the properties on the Airbnb marketplace, violating the Ellis Act.
San Francisco filed similar lawsuits in 2014 against property owners. The suits claimed landlords illegally converted rental properties into tourist hotels, evicting a handful of tenants including some who were disabled. Airbnb removed one of the property owners from the website as a result. Los Angeles plans to provide a list of properties believed to violate the Ellis Act in hopes that Airbnb will police the users.
Airbnb responded to the suit claiming that the position of the app is to oppose illegal evictions of tenants and regulate abuse of the app's platform. The city attorneys are seeking a court appointed receiver to operate the Los Angeles properties until they are compliant with state law, as well as restitution and civil penalties.