To Whom It May Concern:
The City of West Hollywood and the Los Angeles Mayor’s Business and Safety Code Enforcement Offices willfully ignore unlawful short-term rental activities. In most areas of Los Angeles, the codes are clear about limiting apartment listings of less than 30 days in rent-controlled dwellings to generate income. Home-sharing in a residential unit without registration and written approval is prohibited in West Hollywood.
The registration must adhere to code and tax regulations and receive clear guidelines on where such a business can legally be conducted. You would think so… Code enforcement will confirm that over 900 complaints were filed in 2022 alone in West Hollywood.
That same year there were >1600 illegal Airbnb listings. If each listing rents out once a week, it results in over 80’000 not properly vetted strangers to circulate through mostly illegal rental units. The few enforcement officers burdened to verify and penalize thousands of code violators must follow a complicated and nearly impossible task set for by City lawyers and clerks.
The City of West Hollywood requires the overwhelmed officers to provide unshakable proof before issuing a simple citation. The impossible requirement they must submit to stop illegal Airbnb or similar listings, is merely supporting violators. Hence, a citation or a consequence is highly unlikely. The low penalty amount is no incentive either to deter a savvy landlord. There is frankly no authority. Everyone in the City of West Hollywood’s Housing Department knows how Airbnb is unhindered tooled to generate income. Yet, nobody executes the law or mandates justice to protect the local renter’s rights. A signee on the Airbnb on-line registration will come to a step, a link-choice diverting to the City of West Hollywood’s code requirements. A necessary security step is designed to determine if a property is illicit for short-term rental or violates any building code.
However, that mandatory link is inactive. It can be circumvented via a web-design fault, which either is deliberately routed away by Airbnb web coders or waved by the City of West Hollywood in support of “renters” to publicize banned listings.
That “loophole” of required coding is not accidental; it is designed to skip and void a vital safety stop. The City of West Hollywood allows short-term rental listings to be posted without regulation. Furthermore, the Airbnb application process enables listings to become active without proof that the register is ID’d.
Through another loophole, an anonymous signee does not have to list the actual residence address in which paying customers will live. Clients become informed about this address change minutes before receiving a key. Unchecked, anyone from anywhere can start a business by creating a fake profile and then promote an address, not the actual rental space in question. There is no “block” to stop an applicant from activating their illegal profile and renting out a code-restricted dwelling.
The Code enforcement officers are required to set up “sting- operations” to prove what is already a clearly demonstrated violation. Its idiotic at most! Yes, the laws state that if a person rents out his rent-controlled unit, he/she must be present daily for at least four hours.
Many businesses, like the Hiller Hospitality Group, will have multiple fake long-term rental agreements without individuals living in those units. They are specialized in “taking over” vacated units in rent-controlled buildings and “creating” all necessary fixes, remodeling, and fully staging for rent.
They even provide “legal protection” to any willing owner dreaming of becoming a hotelier. What is the incentive for the City of West Hollywood to dismiss taxable income? Who allowed to circumvent existing laws to be enforced? Why is Airbnb able to avoid the law? All this information has been brought to the mayor’s attention many times.
However, neither the prior Mayor Garcetti nor our current Mayor Karen Bass acknowledges how the abusive Airbnb business has expanded in the last three years. Los Angeles is losing millions of taxable income and uncollected ticket funds. Long term renters are being forced out of their secure homes.
The Ordinance, 18-1024 from 2018 (section 5.66.020) is on the book and sufficiently clear that the above illegal activity is in gross violation of our City codes. Yet, someone in the Compliance Division is purposefully allowing Airbnb to circumvent a link designed to prevent people from creating illegal short-term rental profiles in units protected by law. In other California Cities, the registration requirement to block unverified listings is utilized on the sign-in page.
This simple change enabled Code Enforcement Officers in Santa Monica to remove 80% of the illegal short-term listings forcefully. If code enforcement were given the tools and power to ticket a clear violation of the above ordinance, the City of West Hollywood could generate $ 1.3 million, sufficient income to provide us with more Code Officers. With the “stroke of a pen,” our mayor could enact this demand. The blatant abuse, currently tolerated by the City of West Hollywood without direct supervision by the Mayor of Los Angeles, is insulting to every renter who must endure an endless circulation of unchecked weekend renters, cleaning crews, and grabbing landlords. Evicting rent-controlled units is becoming a lucrative norm.
As much as anyone renting a unit is often required to undergo a background check, Airbnb visitors from anywhere in the world are primarily strangers. As the above example demonstrates, these transients don’t even have to be vetted or “real .”This creates a dangerous environment for the legal renters for whom these protective codes were enacted. Airbnb is the cause of skyrocketing rent in our City and the loss of affordable living space. It changes the housing landscape in a dramatic way that does not benefit our community but is lucrative to untaxed businesses.
Many urban statistics support this reality, and their studies have been presented to you. The current Mayor of Los Angeles has promised her voters to be proactive about short-term renter issues, and we hope Madam Karen Bass will follow through. We have Lindsey Horvath in the City of West Hollywood Council and Kenneth Mejia, Controller of Los Angeles, who are “renters” themselves.
They could step up for our cause and help to stop Airbnb’s illegal activity. The Council must commission the Code Enforcement Agents to penalize violators – this requires no change of laws, merely deputation. Please, show proactivity and lawfully require online rental sites to adhere to established rules. Check why these websites circumvent the legal mandates to provide proof of code compliance that gives free access to illegal listings. Your employees, responsible for oversight code and ticketing violators, are mute without enforcement by leadership. Los Angeles is complicit in allowing this avalanche of unlawful listings.
Delete. These people don’t get it.
I wonder what the author means by “properly vetted” strangers. Sounds they are trying to keep certain people out of WeHo. Do hotels “properly vet” their guests? Simply follow the money, what the city makes in occupancy taxes significantly outweighs what they get in fines. In 2016 it’s was $42,000,000 in taxes for LA. The money made from rentals goes into the pockets of local residents and is spread through the community as the hosts hire maintenance staff. a hotel maid gets $15/hr, an airbnb cleaner can make over $70,000 a year. Which would you prefer? If guests stay is… Read more »
You have not read/comprehended the article you critique above; Establishing a short-term rental unit in WeHo, in a rent-controlled apartment is illegal. AirBNB’sare not equal to a hotel system where a guest has to show identity. That, too, is a legal requirement. On AirBNB, anyone, from anywhere, can make a profile and have anyone (friends, strangers…) access a unit, like in the above example and dwell in an apartment complex amongst renters that went through a lengthy application process. Seemingly you are okay with that. Hence Codes are established to protect others…
The majority of those operating illegal Airbnbs are property management firms and therefore also fat cats. Hotels are ASO highly regulated with onsite security. I prefer a model that preserves our affordable housing, not one that allows fat cats of a different variety to benefit at the expense of vulnerable residents.
Worst Business Model EVER! Near ZERO vetting of the hosts! People are being recorded on hidden cameras! Other criminal activities. WeHo needs to put their foot down and NOT allow AB&B to do business in WeHo.
Karen Bass is the mayor of Los Angeles. She has nothing to do with Airbnb regulations in West Hollywood, which if the poster hasn’t noticed, is its own city, not a neighborhood in the City of Los Angeles.
Here, City Girl, is a great link to understand how various cities work together on issues that cross counties and jurisdictional borders: https://www.la101.guide/what-is-the-difference
Maybe California should focus more on the inflation, increased crime, homeless crisis and border crisis before worrying about if someone wants to rent their spare bedroom or rental property.
Maybe landlords would be incentivized to have long term tenants if the tenant laws weren’t so biased toward the tenants. With Airbnb, landlords don’t have to worry about eviction, which is costly and almost impossible to complete in California. The state still is under the COVID state of emergency.
Renting a spare bedroom isn’t a problem or illegal. Neither is renting an ADU on your property you live full time. Both are legal in West Hollywood. What is a problem are corporations buying up all of the available homes and Airbnb-ing them. Further making homes unaffordable and driving up rents (which contribute to many of the problems you note). Also Airbnbs often become crime party homes like in the hills whenever there is a shooting…Wanting them to shut down illegal Airbnbs doesn’t mean we can’t also focus on improving all of the other problems.
You can’t believe in a housing crisis or advocate for affordable housing if you support short term rentals. Just because some guy in an apartment in San Francisco rented out his air mattress and then created a platform were anyone can be an amateur hotelier, does mean cities should allow it.
To qoute from this unattributed article: “We have Lindsey Horvath in (sic) the City of West Hollywood Council and Kenneth Mejia, Controller of Los Angeles, who are “renters” themselves.” When was this written? Certainly not today (February 22) since Horvath is now a County Supervisor.
Funny – how do those angry at those flouting laws and living – gasp – illegally in WeHo feel about our open southern border? I can clearly hear the crackling of cognitive dissonance resonating eastward over those ‘backwards’ flyover states.
I literally just got off the phone with a writer from Business Insider, they’re writing an article about my problems with Airbnb in West Hollywood. A host in LA has been using my WeHo address for his rentals in LA so he can avoid paying his taxes since it’s known to hosts that WeHo doesn’t enforce anything. Multiple times a week people turn up at my door looking for their Airbnb, I have to try and tell them to check their messages in the app for the real address while they yell at me. I’ve spoken at a City Council… Read more »
The GPS coordinates that airbnb has is likely off. I went to an airbnb once and found that was the case. The address the app gave me was incorrect, so it wasn’t the host but one of those crazy things that no one caused. You may be making some incorrect assumptions about the host who has no idea what the problem is.
Hey, the Airbnb account using my address is called “Hollywood” I live on Formosa near Santa Monica, the Airbnb’s are on Tamarind (by Sunset Gower Studios), Van Ness (by Hollywood Forever) and McCadden (by the school on Fountain). It is not a gps mistake, it’s like clock work, people book a WeHo address but the day of check in the host messages them a different address, but most people never notice the message until after they show up and I tell them what’s going on. If you can find the host on Airbnb the reviews are filled with people saying… Read more »
I have known of hosts having their listing removed so they were out of business. If airbnb were aware of this I can’t imagine they would let him continue in business. When I was sent to the wrong address it was to a nearby city. In that case it was an unexplained error in the GPS coordinates, not the host, but in your case it does appear that the host is a jerk who needs to be reported. I suggest you contact airbnb. I may still have the phone number where I reported the problem and it was resolved. I… Read more »
Unfortunately to settle this Airbnb now has what they call The Trust Team and they said I have to write a letter with all my contact info and send it to them as a PDF. Then they can share it with this scam artist host. Both the LAPD and WeHo Sheriffs told me not to do that. Airbnb has become a garbage company and I’ll be glad when this article comes out in Business Insider making them look like garbage.
Here’s one of many reviews
Unfortunately this City is missing qualities of Pro Activism on behalf of its current residents. Always wanting to be noted for Bigger, Better, Faster with no inherent quality, only notariety.
Thank you for sharing this notion! Many renters here in West Hollywood feel the same way. Maybe, if we all come together and voice our concerns, the City leaders and responsible code enforcement officers will realize the urgency of our quest?
I struggle to get simple things like Gas Leaf Blowers, Barking Dogs, and Polystyrene ban enforced which have been on the books for decades.
Maybe Block by Block can be given code enforcement powers, they don’t have much else to do.
Airbnb willfully allows hosts to obfuscate the actual location and opt to hide it. Since no checks are performed up front, hosts are free to lie about whether they have access to their address. WH will never check. Code enforcement is too burdened to otherwise quickly enforce. We have landlord’s hired goons willfully telling us to F off, despite not even having a lease. Every vacated unit becomes another Airbnb. All we’ve been told by the city is to please be patient. It’s outrageous! All it would take is this city stepping up to sue, and require Airbnb to place… Read more »
To mention Airbnb to many people automatically triggers a knee-jerk response. Pretty much all the bad press about airbnb has been a result of unoccupied dwellings being rented out to out-of-towners who then “party” causing damage to the home and disturbance issues for the neighbors. I am aware of several airbnb listings in West Hollywood but all of them are owner/tenant occupied who are renting out a spare bedroom, so there is automatic control of how the place is used by those guests. Guests are vetted by airbnb with their contact information and credit cards that can be charged for… Read more »
If you have a car, you have a job with Uber or Lyft, or you can even rent out that car through an app. If you have a spare bedroom you can make money on it through apps like airbnb and others.
Leverage what you’ve got!
If this was not the country of a middle class being DESTROYED people would not have to do all that!
This is nothing more than perpetuating Gypsy Lifestyle where nothing is respected as personal and private and nearly everything seems community property. The very idea is gross even though folks see benefits in additional income. Improve your standards and life will reward you.
One step removed from couch surfing at a price aka Gypsy Lifestyle.
Not sure some of us agree with your AirBNB supporting notion. The article above clearly is written to share a concern about short-term rentals being established in rent-controlled units. That is illegal. And no, AirBNB does not vet the occupants in their listings… You can rent a place for your buddy with a shady history and get him access to a flat where he is a stranger. You must be with him in a hotel check-in process and show your ID when receiving the room. You could leave him to stay alone, but there is an immediate “trace” linked to… Read more »
It’s a stretch to suggest this kind of thing is a regular occurrence. There are ways to cheat in every kind of transaction, but those who do get caught often enough for it to be a disincentive for most people who might have also tried to beat the system.
Yes, I know this article was about the concern for rent-controlled units, but I was responding to comments made that widened the topic.
Unfortunately widening the topic is exactly Airbnb’s lobbying strategy to weaken regulations. They frame their business model as room sharing, and little people making an extra buck. Research has consistently demonstrated the opposite: the majority of Airbnb rentals are operated by commercial operators against LA and WH regulation. Since the majority of listings are also illegal, it creates a compliance nightmare where code in both cities is unequipped to handle the amount of reports. I pray no one reading this ever has to deal with the slow, often unsatisfactory investigation process. If our laws and code had more teeth, none… Read more »