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Los Angeles CBS 02 News
December 17, 2015

Former Tenants Sue Landlord They Claim Kicked Them To The Curb To Profit From Pricey Airbnb

Aired on CBS Channel 02 News on Thursday, December 17, 2015.
 

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Some longtime tenants say they were forced out of their apartments so the landlord could turn the property into a more lucrative Airbnb.

Those former tenants in the Fairfax district have banded together and they are suing the landlords.

KCAL9's Dave Lopez spoke to the angry group about why they filed a suit.

"We were fantastic tenants," says Nina Giovannitti, "We took care of the property; we had a garden. We lived in a community, very, very close to each other."

Two years ago, it all fell apart. That's when the landlords kicked everyone out and opened up an Airbnb, an online travel service that caters to travelers who don't like to stay in hotels willing to pay a high premium for apartments or homes.

"Literally, you have a bull's-eye on your back," says Larry Gross, of the Coalition for Economic Survival, "Because Airbnb and their partners may be coming for your unit."

The apartment building, which was rent-controlled, received about $1,800 a month from the building's four tenants. At Airbnb rates, they were getting $500 a night per unit.

Landlords can legally evict tenants for no good reason if they are getting out of the rental business, Lopez reported. If the owner decides to convert the space into his own private home, he would have to do so for five years. Or he could knock down the building and do whatever he wanted.

At the heart of the lawsuit, the landlord in this case did neither of those things.

"I think we just never really did have legislation that regulated this kind of short-term rental in the past," LA Councilman Paul Koretz said.

The Airbnb business model is so new, the council concedes it's not something it could have seen coming. It is coming up with ordinances to keep it from happening to other tenants.

"I blame them for kicking people out that were great tenants," Giovannitti said, "It's not about about what he's doing or making more money."

Carol Alsman and Lauren Shane Bennett are named as owners of the property. Lopez said neither could be reached for comment.

The company, LSJB, is owned by Bennett. When reached, Lopez said that company replied: "We don't know what you're talking about."

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which could be months from reaching a courtroom, are asking for a jury trial.

 

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