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LA's Underground Rental Market Hiking Rents

The popular website AirBnb was born as the global economy was dying in 2008, and since then nearly 250,000 people have used the website for short term rentals in Los Angeles.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The NBC4 I-team reveals what's becoming for many the nightmare next door: short term rentals growing in popularity. It’s a convenient way for homeowners to rent to tourists, who in turn, avoid hotels. But it also means lost tax revenue for the city and frustration for some neighbors who are fed up with the constant turnover. Colleen Williams reports for the NBC4 News at 11 on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. (Published Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014)

    Short term rentals have become a worldwide moneymaker and it is causing controversy here at home, with city leaders in Los Angeles at odds over what to do about it. 

    They are growing in popularity as it is a convenient way for homeowners to rent to tourists who, in turn, avoid hotels. 

    However it also means lost tax revenue for the city.

    The popular website AirBnb was born as the global economy was dying in 2008, and since then nearly 250,000 people have used the website for short term rentals in Los Angeles. 

    "I’m concerned something is going to happen that shouldn’t happen," said one Venice homeowner, who was afraid to speak publicly about the revolving doors of strangers renting nearby. 

    From the Westside to the community of Silver Lake, homeowners in tight-knit neighborhoods say they’re ready to move out. 

    "If everyone is suddenly a renter, you know, I don’t want to live here anymore," said Jane Taguchi, a Silver Lake homeowner who opposes Airbnb and short term rentals. 

    The NBC4 I-Team sat down with AirBnb’s public policy leader David Owen and asked how the Internet company, headquartered in San Francisco, ensures safety in LA. 

    "Every guest and host can be reviewed by the other party," Owen said. "Bad things happen and it’s important for us to make sure that safety is a critical component."

    A closer look shows there are no background checks for guests who use AirBnb. 

    There is also another problem.

    “There’s a kind of home snatching that’s going on,” an anonymous homeowner said.

    As apartments and homes convert into short term rentals, long term housing falls short in supply. 

    A city memo states it’s illegal to rent fewer than 30 days, but, as NBC4 found, visitors are not generally staying that long. 

    "It’s one week," said Canadian tourist Chris Majkowski. "Yes, it’s one week we’re renting the house."

    The city has formed a special committee to look into the issue of short term rentals. 

    "We’re getting more and more complaints about these AirBnbs and so it’s time for us to look at the industry as a whole," said Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar. "We’re just not there yet."

    An NBC4 undercover camera captured a call to police, as neighbors fight over the issue of short term rentals. 

    NBC4 also found the homeowner repeatedly lists her property on AirBnb for rent, and for less time than what is legal. 

    As renters keep showing up, neighbors keep getting angry. 

    Police admit enforcing the rules regarding AirBnb and short term rentals is not easy, however it is not their problem to solve. 

    "It’s a matter of waiting to see who will step forward and enforce it…if at all," said Los Angeles Police Department Officer Lenny Davis.

    AirBnb concedes the community concerns need attention. 

    "It’s important as we’re having these conversations with the city, to look for a balanced approach, while still protecting the things that make Los Angeles special," Owen said.

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