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Short-Term Rentals Turn Into Nightmares Next Door

An NBC4 I-Team investigation found examples across Los Angeles of what appears to be Airbnb hosts turning apartments and homes into neighborhood hotels

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    An NBC4 I-Team investigation found examples across Los Angeles of what appears to be Airbnb hosts turning apartments and homes into neighborhood hotels. Joel Grover reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, 2017.

    (Published Thursday, March 2, 2017)

    Mitchell Gould and Daisy Marco thought they had bought their dream house.

    Tucked in a quiet neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills, the house has beautiful views, friendly neighbors and plenty of room for their cats.

    "It's a really quiet neighborhood. There are families and a lot of older couples," said Marco.

    So when moving trucks pulled up and a new car was parked in the driveway of their next door neighbor, Marco went over to introduce herself.

    That's when, she said, the nightmare next door began.

    Instead of a new family moving in next door, the house was listed on Airbnb --a website for short-term housing rentals.

    "It's a vacation house. It's a party house," said Gould.

    Gould and Marco say the host moved in a pool table and added a hot tub to the back patio, just yards away from Gould and Marco's bedroom window.

    "They set up the place to have 12 beds and it's not a 12-bedroom house," said Gould.

    Almost immediately, the guests began coming and going at all hours, according to the couple. They said the guests would stay up late partying, leave trash strewn up and down the street and park in front of their driveway blocking their cars in.

    "Most disturbingly, they were smoking and throwing their butts just off the balcony into the foliage," Gould said. "If, God forbid, a fire starts back there, we're going to lose our house first.

    "We've lived here for several years now and the last three weeks, we're suddenly living next to a hotel."

    And, Gould and Marco are not alone.

    An NBC4 I-Team investigation found examples across Los Angeles of what appears to be Airbnb hosts turning apartments and homes into neighborhood hotels. Some of the listings were available every day of the month.

    "Per the zoning code, it's not legal to rent a home or an apartment in a residential area for less than 30 days," explained Roy Samaan, a policy analyst for LAANE -- a nonprofit advocacy group pushing for regulations on short term rentals like Airbnb.

    The Los Angeles City Attorney's office also told NBC4 these short-term rentals are against the law -- violations of both zoning code and occupancy rules.

    The NBC4 I-Team reached out to the host, who calls himself Alex, about staying in the house next to Gould and Marco for a week. He offered to rent NBC4 the property for $3,181 for five days.

    But it turns out Alex doesn't actually own the home. When the I-Team contacted the actual owner, she said she believed she was renting the home to a young couple with a baby. And she said that she doesn't know anyone named Alex, nor did she give permission to advertise the house on Airbnb.

    When the NBC4 I-Team asked Alex about it, he wrote back that this is "a false story as the property isn't for rent for short term use and it's only available for stays longer than 30 days when I'm out of town working."

    But two of three reviews for the property say those guests only spent a single night at that location and Alex offered the house to the NBC4 I-Team for only five days.

    Shortly after the I-Team contacted Alex, the listing was taken down.

    An Airbnb spokesperson told the I-Team that they don't get involved in issues between renters and landlords. He said the majority of Airbnb stays are safe and enjoyable experiences.

    Not all of the neighbors near Airbnb properties agree. The I-Team found what could be full-time Airbnb hotels all over town, including one in the Fairfax area.

    "You have people who come to town to party, to have a good time. So they're drinking and they're smoking. I have a young family here," said Matthew Berger who lives next door to what he said is a full-time Airbnb hotel.

    He said he is worried about strangers partying just a stone's throw from his daughter's bedroom.

    "I don't want to be constantly concerned about who's next door," Berger said.

    When the I-Team reached out to an owner of that property, he said he was not aware of any laws against renting the home on Airbnb. He said he takes the responsibilities of a property owner seriously and has "discussed the matter at length with our immediate neighbor to try to resolve his issues."

    In the heart of Hollywood, the I-Team found a hostel-style hotel -- a three bedroom apartment complete with bunk beds and shared bathrooms -- all available for rent on Airbnb.

    Airbnb said they're cracking down on these hostel-style rentals and they've removed hundreds of listings already. They encourage homeowners with concerns about an Airbnb property to use their online "Good Neighbor Tool" for sharing complaints. They also said they're working with city officials to develop regulations on short-term rentals that include quality of life protections.

    The Los Angeles City Council is currently considering an ordinance that would legalize short term rentals with certain conditions. People who want to rent their properties using sites like Airbnb would have to register with the city and the number of rental nights would be limited. The proposed ordinance would also only allow hosts to rent out their primary residence, the city attorney said.

    But Samaan said regulation without enforcement is fruitless.

    "The enforcement is essential. We can pass ordinances all year and if there's no enforcement it won't make a difference," he said. "I think the key is making sure that companies like Airbnb are liable to really make sure what's happening on their site is above board."

    Marco and Gould said they've tried everything they can think of to address the Airbnb next door to their house. They've talked to neighbors, called their city councilman, contacted the host and even reported incidents to the LAPD.

    "It's really frustrating," Marco said. "No matter where we live in the city, this could happen. I don't want to move. We love our house. We love our neighborhood. But even if we move, somebody could do the same thing in the house next to us."

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