Photo courtesy of Airbnb
Photo courtesy of Airbnb

A half-dozen former tenants of a Hollywood neighborhood are suing Airbnb, alleging the online lodging service aided their landlords in ending their tenancies, then re-renting their residences in violation of a municipal ordinance.

Dialmar Castanera, Eric Thevenot, Brandy Menefee, Kristen O’Neil, Takako Inamori and Sonja Durham’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit additionally alleges intentional misrepresentation, aiding and abetting and illegal and unfair business practices.

The suit, filed Tuesday, seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. In addition to Airbnb, the suit names the plaintiffs’ landlords, Belmond Homes LP, and property managers Wiseman Management LLC as defendants.

Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas issued a statement in reaction to the lawsuit.

“While we do not comment on pending litigation, we have long opposed landlords who remove housing from the market,” Papas said. “Airbnb helps ordinary people by allowing them to use their house — typically their greatest expense — to generate supplemental income to pay for costs like food, rent, education for their children and we look forward to continuing to work with communities on clear, fair rules of the road.”

The suit states that all of the plaintiffs rented apartments in the 1300 block of Formosa Avenue long before Belmond Homes acquired the units last February. The property is subject to Los Angeles’ rent stabilization ordinance because the property was built before 1978 and has more than two dwellings, the suit says.

In March, tenants received notices from Belmond Homes to vacate within four months, according to the suit, which says all of the occupants left by June based on their landlord’s written notice that the units were being removed from the rental market and the property was being redeveloped.

However, Belmond Homes offered the plaintiffs’ former units for rent on Airbnb in July without first giving notice to the city, the suit alleges. Airbnb thus assisted the landlords in circumventing the city’s RSO because the partnership with Belmond Homes allowed for rents to be collected in excess of those allowed by the RSO, the suit states.

The RSO also prohibits the offering of a withdrawn unit for rent or lease within two years from its withdrawal without first offering the unit to the previously displaced tenant, according to the suit.

–City News Service 

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