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Los Angeles City Attorney turns up heat on short-term rental hosts

The Airbnb app is displayed on a smartphone on April 21, 2014 in San Anselmo, California. Online home-rental marketplace Airbnb Inc. is about to receive more than $450 million in investments from a group led by private-equity firm TPG. The new investments will value the startup at $10 billion, significantly higher than some publicly traded hotel chains.
The Airbnb app is displayed on a smartphone on April 21, 2014 in San Anselmo, California. Online home-rental marketplace Airbnb Inc. is about to receive more than $450 million in investments from a group led by private-equity firm TPG. The new investments will value the startup at $10 billion, significantly higher than some publicly traded hotel chains.
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L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer is going after four landlords for illegally renting their apartment units as short-term rentals.

Feuer announced the charges today during a news conference. Owner Carol Jean Alsman and LSJB Investments, LLC are facing six criminal charges – among them, that they violated the state's Ellis Act by removing tenants from a 4-unit apartment building in the Fairfax District in order to make the units available for short-term renters. LSJB Investments did not return KPCC's call for comment.

“We’re purposely announcing these actions today to make it clear that we’re on the case, and we are, in my office, going to prioritize this issue, and we are going to take the action necessary to intervene to keep rental units on the market,” Feuer said.

The other three property owners are facing civil charges for violating the city's zoning code. The 120 affected units are in Venice beach and Hollywood.

Feuer said rent-stabilized units are key to dealing with the affordable housing crisis, and that taking them off the market to be used as short-term rentals or hotels decreases the supply of viable homes for residents.

"If rent-stabilized units are taken off the marketplace, tenants are displaced and left to fend for themselves in a higher rental market," Feuer explained.

The city attorney’s office is seeking remedies, restitution and penalties in these civil cases, including appointing a receiver to operate the properties as rent-stabilized apartment buildings, restitution for tenants affected by the allegedly unlawful conversions, and penalties for the alleged zoning violations.

Feuer said the cases arose after the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department sent the property owners Orders to Comply, which were ignored.