Aggrieved Tenants Sue Airbnb Over Rentals

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By Alexis Kramer

Six Los Angeles residents have sued Airbnb Inc. after their apartment landlords allegedly terminated their tenancies to re-rent the apartments on short term bases through the homesharing platform ( Castanera v. Airbnb , Cal. Super. Ct., No. BC645526, complaint filed 1/3/17 ).

The property owners falsely claimed they were terminating the tenancies to withdraw the units from the rental market, but then re-rented the units for higher nightly rates on Airbnb, the plaintiffs alleged in a Jan. 3 complaint filed in the California Superior Court. Airbnb, acting as the owners’ agent, allegedly marketed and listed the apartments without first filing a notice of intent to re-rent with the city, the plaintiffs said.

The plaintiffs’ claims add to the numerous legal and regulatory woes Airbnb has faced over the past year, including attempts by some cities to regulate the short-term rental industry. The complaint follows a suit filed in the same court against the company for allegedly publishing multiple listings of a home by a renter in violation of an agreement with the homeowner ( Wang v. Airbnb, Cal. Super. Ct., No. BC641253, complaint filed 11/18/16 ).

An Airbnb spokesman and the property owners didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA requests for comment.

Section 151.09 of the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) allows a landlord to terminate a tenancy on one of 14 grounds, including to demolish the rental unit or to remove it permanently from the market. The plaintiffs alleged that Airbnb helped the property owners circumvent the RSO by listing the apartments as short-term rentals after the owners claimed they were withdrawing the units from the rental market.

The plaintiffs alleged that by failing to file a notice of intent to re-rent pursuant to Section 151.27 of the RSO, the defendants deprived them the opportunity to request an offer to renew their tenancies. Airbnb is liable to them under the ordinance for actual damages as the property owners’s “partner in a joint venture” and as their agent, the plaintiffs alleged.

The Eviction Defense Network is representing the plaintiffs.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at aKramer@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

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