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Los Angeles Business Journal

Thursday December 17, 2015

Tenants, 'Evicted for Airbnb,' Sue Landlord

By Karen Jordan

Five long-term tenants in Fairfax District filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming they were illegally evicted so their units could be rented for farm more money to Airbnb.

Some of the former tenants and their lawyers held a press conference at North Genesee and Rosewood Avenues Thursday alleging the landlords, Carol Alsman and LSBJ Investments LLC, violated city and state laws, including the Ellis Act, which prohibits landlords from putting evicted tenants' units on the market as short-term rentals, and at higher rates, for five years. The attorneys argue the units were put on the short-term rental market within weeks and for higher amounts.

Attorney Randy Renick said the tenants were paying rents that amounted to $57 a day. After evicting them, the landlords later rented out the units for short-term use for up to $500 a night.

One of the plaintiffs, Carrie Kirshman, who lived at 500 North Genesee Ave. for 21 years, said she loved her neighborhood and misses her old home.

"I had cultivated lifelong friendships with my neighbors," Kirshman said. "I had no plans to leave."

Nina Giovannitti, who said she lived there for 13 years until being forced out, believes such evictions are destroying local communities.

"We think the city should be able to do more to protect tenants like us," she said.

A representative of the landlord had no comment.

Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, said the case brought by the Fairfax tenants is significant.

"It's the first case we have a direct link between an eviction and a connection to Airbnb," Gross said. "If we don't stop with this case, it's likely to spread."

Gross also described the housing market in Los Angeles as being in crisis mode.

"Airbnb is nothing more than a corporate vampire sucking the affordable housing out of our city," Gross said.

Airbnb issued a statement Thursday, saying the company does not comment on pending litigation, however "we strongly oppose real estate speculators who illegally evict tenants and abuse platforms like ours in search of a quick buck."

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, who was also on hand for the press conference, said he and other councilmembers are working on an ordinance that will try to "rein in" Airbnb and similar companies by allowing them to operate within certain limits and establish requirements aimed to protect neighborhoods.

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