Affordable housing is hard to come by in LA and the NBC4 I-Team has discovered why some rent stabilized apartments are disappearing from the market.
The I-Team found that some people are leasing affordable apartments meant for long term tenants, and then offering them to tourists on AirBnb, making a sizable profit.
“There’s only a fixed number of rent stabilized units in the city of LA. So when you rent a unit like that out as a short term vacation rental, it takes a rent stabilized unit off the market,” says Tori Funk of Better Neighbors LA, an advocacy group whose membersincludes tenants, affordable housing activists, and hotel workers.
It’s against the law in Los Angeles to offer short term vacation rentals in rent-stabilized buildings.
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Better Neighbors LA spotted a vacation rental on Airbnb described as a “2 Bedroom Suite in WeHo” or West Hollywood, so Tori Funk rented it.
She soon figured out the real location; it wasn’t in West Hollywood but in the city of LA at the rent-stabilized Park La Brea apartment complex.
Funk says some Airbnb hosts describe their vacation rentals as being in cities other than Los Angeles, like West Hollywood, to avoid detection by LA officials who monitor Airbnb listings to make sure they’re not in rent-stabilized buildings.
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After Funk paid a deposit on the Park La Brea Airbnb, the host messaged her, saying “Do not visit the on site leasing office. If anyone asks, say you’re visiting a friend. Don’t mention your [Airbnb]reservation.”
"I’m assuming they don’t want us to mention our Airbnb listing because they might get caught by the city of LA. So they’re asking us to lie about why we’re here,” Funk told the I-Team.
Airbnb hosts can potentially make a lot of money by snagging affordable apartments and listing them as vacation rentals.
For example, a host who takes out a long term lease at Park La Brea for about $3,000 a month, then charges tourists $240 a night, can bring in more than $6,000 a month.
“They’re making a lot more money than they would if they rented it out to someone on a monthly basis,” says Tori Funk.
And having an Airbnb vacation rental in the apartment next to you, can be a big headache for long term residents of rent stabilized buildings.
“I called it the frat house,” said Elden Rhoads, who says there was an Airbnb right next door to her apartment at Park La Brea. In fact, last year at one point she says there were three Airbnb rentals on her floor.
“There’s partying, drinking, smoking… sometimes right out in the halls,” Rhoads told the I-Team.
When the I-Team contacted Airbnb about illegal listings, like the one Tori Funk rented at Park La Brea, the company said “we have removed the listing from our platform. We’ve worked closely with city officials to develop a compliance system and will continue our close collaboration to promote responsible hosting and address the small number of hosts who try to evade the rules.”
The I-Team also contacted the host who listed the apartment rented by Tori Funk, but he never responded.
A Park La Brea spokesperson told NBC4: “Park La Brea does not allow short-term rentals of its units. We take this issue very seriously and have a robust set of protocols in place to identify and remove any short-term listing of our units and work closely with law enforcement agencies, other property management companies and advocacy groups working to combat this issue.”
And the LA Planning Department, which regulates short term rentals, says you can report hosts that appear to be illegally offering a residence for short-term rental by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org