Airbnb is Raising the Ire of WeHo Apartment Managers and Tenants

$115 a night on North Sweetzer through Airbnb
$115 a night on North Sweetzer through Airbnb

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or $50 a night, Alex is offering a bed in the corner of her one-bedroom apartment, a block from Whole Foods, that houses her and another tenant. For $153 a night, Denise is offering a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment near Plummer Park with a parking space and a dining table that seats six. Joseph and Charles will rent for $75 a night a bedroom with en suite bath and access to a swimming pool and sauna in their condominium on Alta Loma Road.

Alex's $50 a night rental
Alex’s $50 a night rental

These were among the 234 rooms or apartments identified as being in West Hollywood that were offered for rent on a recent day on Airbnb. One person, who identifies himself as a real estate agent, is offering six apartments in WeHo and Hollywood for short term rentals.

Airbnb was launched in 2007 by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, who were offering air mattresses and breakfast for up to three guests a night to help them cover the cost of their San Francisco apartment. Today Airbnb has gone global, with 500,000 listings in 33,000 cities and 192 countries. It is the exemplar of the so-called “peer to peer” marketplace in which individuals offer one another products and services without having to go through retailers or business owners.

Denise's rental for $150 a night
Denise’s rental for $150 a night

In West Hollywood, as elsewhere in the country, Airbnb is raising the hackles of some apartment building owners and tenants and raising questions with the city’s code enforcement staff about violations of WeHo’s zoning laws.

“It’s wrong on so many levels,” said leasing specialist Marco Colantonio. Colantonio was distressed to discover that tenants in two apartments in a building he manages were using Airbnb in violation of their lease agreement.

The discovery that the apartments were being rented out for short stays cast new light on the frequent comings and goings at Colantonio’s building. Colantonio said that he and other building tenants had been led to believe that the visitors were friends or family members of his residents.
Colantonio said that Airbnb takes away a landlord’s right to choose who to have in his building. He said that under-the-radar visitors raise concerns about safety because the guests aren’t subject to screening as are tenants.

“A landlord has the right to control who is occupying their property,” said Dennis Block, an attorney who specializes in tenant eviction. “Residents can use the service unless it violates laws regarding running a business or violation of the lease agreement. The resident could face eviction for using this site.”

Jeff Aubel, West Hollywood’s code compliance manager, said the city has received complaints from apartment residents about short-term rentals in their buildings and that 15 property owners believed to be illegally renting out space have been issued cease and desist orders.

Aubel said that using dwellings for short-term or vacation rentals violates WeHo’s zoning ordinance, which bars renting an apartment or room for fewer than 30 days. Someone who rents for fewer than 30 days faces a fine of $250 for the first violation, $450 for the second, $750 for the third and possible criminal charges for a fourth violation.

Joseph and Charles' $75 a night private room
Joseph and Charles’ $75 a night private room

“The city’s concern is compliance with its land use regulations, not the use of a particular website to advertise available condos and apartments,” Aubel said. “Listings on a website like Airbnb, used primarily for the advertisement of short-term/vacation rentals, can be evidence of a land use violation …Violation of the municipal code may subject the violator to fines, injunction, and/or criminal prosecution.”

Airbnb also offers competition to the city’s hotels, whose room tax is a major source of revenue for West Hollywood. While there is no apparent activity among hotels in West Hollywood, lobbyists for the industry worldwide have been campaigning against Airbnb, noting that it robs hotels of clients and that apartments rented through Airbnb don’t have to meet the strict, and expensive, safety standards required of hotels.

Apartment residents who complain about short term rentals by their neighbors, and those who rent out their apartments to tourists, are understandably reluctant to talk on the record about the issue. But the issue has made news in places from nearby Silver Lake to Portland and New York City. Airbnb is even under fire in its home town of San Francisco— although the San Francisco Examiner reports that it is tenants who are worried about landlords using the service for fear they will take rental properties off the market if short-term rentals prove more profitable. In New York City, one apartment tenant was issued a fine of $2,400 last year after using Airbnb to rent out a room in his apartment; the fine was then overturned on appeal because his roomate had been in the home during the renter’s stay.

Nick Papas, an Airbnb spokesperson, noted that Airbnb hosts must agree to follow local rules and lease agreements, and that all first-time hosts get a reminder to check the laws where they live.

“Problems with landlords and tenants are incredibly rare, but if they happen, we notify the host so he or she can work with the landlord and reach resolution,” said Papas, who called the sharing economy “a new paradigm.”

Airbnb also points to its “trust and safety features,” which includes profiles of apartment renters and reviews by Airbnb users of the spaces they rent out.

“The more you know us, the more you love us … when we work together, leaders and community members around the world quickly see how Airbnb makes communities stronger,” Papas said.

He also said Airbnb is winning battles against short-term rental restrictions, citing Hamburg, Denmark, Amsterdam and Seoul as communities that embrace Airbnb. Stateside, the company counts as victories decisions in Grand Rapids and in San Luis Obispo.

Locally, the West Hollywood City Council has agreed to establish a task force to look at the impact of Airbnb and other “peer to peer” businesses such as Uber and Lyft, the car services.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that a New York man had been fined and did not include the information that the fine was overturned on appeal. 


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Debby
Guest
Debby

Jeromecleary: I don’t think I missed your point. You are saying that there are worse things than having a resident who invites an outside patron via airbnb to your neighborhood, such as having a resident who invites in someone via an app for casual sex. My response is clear, but you may have missed *my* point, so let me be clearer: 1. These problems are additive. It is not a case of *either* you have airbnb “guests” *or* you have casual sex partners who were contacted online. By allowing airbnb to operate, you are not *eliminating* the casual sex partners,… Read more »

Bad idea
Guest
Bad idea

With hotels at every price level there is a verifiable standard of accommodations, service and security. With Airbnb this is rather arbitrary and certainly in most instances not under consistent control. Operating between the lines is always risky behavior but the greatest risk is to the unwitting innocent bystanders….other residents. Landlords have also been known to turn an opportunistic blind eye as they too often take advantage of Airbnb revenues under the table.

jeromecleary
Guest

Debby you missed my point completely.

Debby
Guest
Debby

Jerome Cleary: how about both? Nothing about an airbnb rental prohibits hooking up or even inviting in prostitutes, increasing the risk to the building and neighbors. In fact, transient guests are far more likely to engage in such behaviors than residents who care about their community and reputation.

Jerome Cleary
Guest
Jerome Cleary

Hmmm let me see what is more dangerous and a security risk…..some stranger who is on Meth hooking up through Grindr or Craigslist coming to your apartment building in the middle of the night? OR someone who is staying at your apartment building who is going to spend their tourist dollars in our businesses, bars and restaurants for a few days or a week who is connected to a well known website Airbnb which is insured for damages?

Anthony Chase
Guest
Anthony Chase

I hosted with AIRBNB and NEVER had one instance of rude behavior or entertained “transient” travelers. Further, there is a $1,000,000 AIRBNB insurance policy covering landlords and hosts. We have entertained international guests and the world became a friendlier place. Considering the climate of a hostile world you might consider how much GOOD this sharing is doing to benefit public relations world-wide. I would caution anyone reading this to ask what the motive is of those who posted above? Are they simply afraid of change, are inherently selfish and self-serving? Or just greedy landlords? I would assume that the majority… Read more »

Pw
Guest
Pw

I live next door to one and the quality of life in my neighborhood has dropped precipitously the day it began renting. Nuts a constant party.

Pw
Guest
Pw

I think this us destroying not enhancing our community as some suggest. A community is a group if people combined together with do common interest. When your community turn transient, it’s hard to call it a community anymore. Instead it’s just a group if hotels. Unregulated, uninsured, without safety equipment and putting an extra burden on public services without being taxed. I see property values going down wherever this transient housing occurs.

joetheplummber
Guest
joetheplummber

Mr. Colantonio is absolutely correct. West Hollywood does not allow “hoteling.” To the extent that tenants violate local law they have likely breached a covenant of their lease. But, West Hollywood’s rent control law is so poorly written that all but the most egregious offenders can profit. My suggestion: forget eviction! Sue these rotten tenants in civil court for unfair competition and breach of contract. Make them defend their actions!

luca d
Guest
luca d

i’ll tell you what, buy an apartment building and then you can let people come and go like it’s a motel. how outrageous is this ‘service’, that a building owner has no right to object when their property is being misused and abused? a lease is a contract, and must be enforced. if the city of west hollywood has no interest in being a fair broker between landlords and tenants, then it will be a free for all, as this city tries to maintain some notion of affordable housing. if you are a tenant, you are a tenant, not an… Read more »

JESS K Registered Voter
Guest
JESS K Registered Voter

I’m wondering about a business license and taxes not being collected and paid to the city for these unlawful “rentals”. One would think that the City would monitor the known sites and fine and shutdown these businesses? One would think that the legitimate hotels would be up in arms about this! Comparing to Lyft, Uber, etc. is comparing apples to oranges. A dwelling involves noise, security and a myriad of other ‘social issues’. It is one thing to have a house guest for a short period of time, or having a “tenant”. Who is liable in case of damage? A… Read more »

TimF
Guest
TimF

AirBnB and similar sites are successful because they provides a service that people want, affordable short term housing. How is it any different than Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and all the rest taking business from taxi companies and tax revenues from cities? RelayRides takes business away from rental car companies. The list goes on and on. Cities can try to regulate them, but they won’t be able to ban them. Sharing services are here to stay.