Better Neighbors LA (“BNLA”), a coalition of Southern California hosts, tenants, housing activists, hotel workers, and community members, has exposed a scheme used by Airbnb hosts who use fake West Hollywood listings to illegally rent Park La Brea Units in an effort to evade the Los Angeles Home Sharing Ordinance (“HSO”). BNLA became privy to this issue when they received a complaint from a West Hollywood resident whose address is being used in short term rent (STR) listings for properties that are actually in Los Angeles without their consent.
Park La Brea, a historic apartment complex in Mid-City, is covered by the Los Angeles Rent Stabilized Ordinance; such units are categorically prohibited from being rented out as STRs. Better Neighbors Los Angeles discovered one of these Park La Brea units which listed West Hollywood as its location.
After receiving this complaint, BNLA conducted a regional analysis in the border regions in West Hollywood between Sycamore Ave and Fairfax Ave. Within the border regions, BNLA determined that 69 out of the 133 listings (52%) misrepresented the location of the advertised property in West Hollywood instead of Los Angeles.
BNLA did a sting operation and rented out a unit. After reserving the unit, the host messaged BNLA the unit’s true address. The host also instructed BNLA not to mention to anyone at the building that the unit had been rented as a short-term rental.
According to BNLA, the scheme further diminishes Los Angeles’ affordable housing supply. Last week the City of Los Angeles released its first homeless count in two years finding that high rents and limited apartment supply continue to force Angelenos out of the city and many into homelessness.
The bait and switch scheme here undermines the HSO by removing affordable housing from the long- term rental market. Furthermore, this tactic also adversely impacts those whose addresses are being appropriated without permission to execute the scheme. BNLA spoke with a West Hollywood resident whose address was being used without their consent for an Airbnb listing for a property that is truly located in Los Angeles, where the HSO is enforceable.
“For over six months I’ve had at least three groups of Airbnb renters show up in my West Hollywood driveway each week looking for their rental that is miles away in Hollywood,” said a West Hollywood resident who wishes to be anonymous. “When these Airbnb customers learn that they’ve been mixed up in a bait and switch listing they often get verbally abusive and accuse me of being part of this scam. Every time an Airbnb group is dropped off in my driveway I get tense. I’ve been verbally abused so many times that I wonder when one of these encounters is going to end in violence.”
“It is the job of the Los Angeles Planning Department’s Home-Sharing Unit to enforce the Home Sharing Ordinance against scofflaw hosts and platforms. And Airbnb’s has failed to fulfill its responsibility to its guests and to the cities in which it operates to follow the law” said Tori Funk, representative of Better Neighbors LA. “The Planning Department’s usual response of ‘We don’t know how to enforce the Ordinance’ just isn’t good enough. Airbnb’s failure to ensure the accuracy of their listings just isn’t good enough. What will it take for any of them to take responsibility?”
“We have removed the listing from our platform,” Airbnb told NBC4’s I-Team regarding the illegal listings, “We’ve worked closely with city officials to develop a compliance system and will continue our close collaboration to promote responsible hosting and address the small number of hosts who try to evade the rules.”
A Park La Brea spokesperson told NBC4 that it does not allow short-term rentals of its units. “We take this issue very seriously and have a robust set of protocols in place to identify and remove any short-term listing of our units and work closely with law enforcement agencies, other property management companies and advocacy groups working to combat this issue.”
In 2018, West Hollywood city council voted to ban renters from making money from short-term apartment stays, making it illegal to list apartments on Airbnb.
Illegal short term rentals can be reported by emailing [email protected].