Armed guards, thumping music, and parties that last past dawn. In areas of greater Los Angeles, homeowners are making big bucks illegally renting their homes out for all-night parties, causing a nightmare for sleep-deprived neighbors. An NBC4 I-Team investigation found that despite dozens of complaints to the cops, these so-called "party houses" are often operating unchecked by the LAPD and city officials.
"It's like torture," said Steve Ginsberg, who lives in LA's Mount Olympus neighborhood, right behind two houses that are rented out for large, loud parties.
During the day, Mount Olympus is a quiet hillside neighborhood. But at night, Ferraris and Lamborghinis clog the streets, as alcohol-fueled, all-night parties get underway.
That's because a handful of homeowners are cashing in, renting their homes to the well-heeled who want to throw big parties.
Homeowner Eric Oster is openly -- and apparently illegally -- renting out his Mount Olympus home on the Internet for parties, starting at $2,750 a night. Three doors away, Gary Pagar has been renting his home for parties for $5,000 a night. Another party house in the Hollywood Dell area rents for $8,000 to $10,000 a night, depending on the number of guests.
"You're living in a place where, literally, you can't sleep," said Ginsberg about the frequent parties in his neighborhood.
On one recent night, the I-Team's cameras recorded a party at a rental house that began after 2 a.m., when Mercedes, Bentleys, and Range Rovers disgorged high-heeled partiers, who drank and danced and filled the streets until the sun came up.
And it's all illegal. Under LA'S zoning laws, renting a home in a single-family neighborhood for parties is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1000 fine. The police know all about the parties.
In just six months, neighbors have called the LAPD 42 times just about those two party houses on the block behind Steve Ginsberg's home. "It's infuriating that the police and local politicians have known about it and have basically done nothing," he said.
"We should be doing something," said LAPD Captain Peter Zarcone, after the I-Team showed him video of raging, all-night parties in the area he oversees. Zarcone said the LAPD knows of at least 11 nuisance party houses that chronically disrupt neighborhoods.
Neighbors in Mount Olympus have also emailed and called the office of their city councilman, Tom LaBonge, dozens of times, but haven't heard back in months. "I'm very sorry that these people have had poor service from my office," LaBonge told the I-Team. "It's absolutely wrong."
The I-Team's cameras documented parties, week after week in various LA neighborhoods, often with armed guards toting guns standing outside, to keep out partiers who aren't on a list.
When the I-Team confronted the owners of these party houses, some claimed they didn't know they were breaking the law. "I had no idea it was illegal to rent for parties," says Gary Pagar who rents his Mount Olympus home for $5,000 a night. After questions from the I-Team, Pagar said he will no longer rent for parties.
"We feel horrible for the neighbors" who've been kept up at night, Pagar said.
Three doors down, homeowner Eric Oster, who rents his place for $2,750 a night, told the I-Team, "I do not allow parties at my house." When the I-Team offered to show Oster video of frequent, all-night parties at his home, he said "I think we've said enough. I don't have anything new to say."
Oster walked into his house.
Now, in the wake of the I-Team's investigation, police and city officials are promising to shut down illegal party rentals that keep neighborhoods up all night.
"I will get together with city departments and the city attorney's office to find an effective way to calm this problem," says Councilman Tom LaBonge.
LAPD Captain Peter Zarcone pledged to enlist undercover vice detectives to stop landlords from illegally renting their homes, like the two in Mount Olympus. "I can promise you that we'll be taking action on those," Zarcone told NBC4.