Zoning

LA Renters Rat Out Airbnb Users, Get Evicted Instead

Surprise: A bureaucracy powerful enough to evict your neighbors for no good reason can do the same to you.

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Los Angeles Times

Via Mike Hewlett's Twitter feed comes this tale of overregulation of rental spaces in the Venice Beach area of Los Angeles.

The LA Times reports:

Worried that their new landlord was trying to turn their Venice apartment building into a kind of illegal hotel, Phyllis Murphy and her neighbors wrote a letter to city officials.

The residents complained that some of the units were being rented out to tourists for short stays, bringing a revolving door of strangers into the complex on a tranquil stretch of Third Avenue….

So it was a shock when Murphy — a plucky 67-year-old with reddish hair and an easy laugh — abruptly found herself facing eviction.

City inspectors said they spotted the rentals that bothered Murphy. But they also concluded that only four of the eight units in the building had been legally permitted, according to city documents.

This doesn't quite rise to the level of seriousness evinced by, say, The Lives of Others, the German film about ubiquitous spying in the old GDR. But there's a level of irony here that seems lost not just of Phyllis Murphy but the Times' reporter, too:

More than 1,700 such "bootlegged" apartments have been shut down in the wake of city inspections since 2010, according to the housing department. Many are discovered through routine inspections of rental housing, but they can also be detected when city inspectors react to complaints about an apartment being used for an illegal purpose, like the one that Murphy and her neighbors lodged with the city….

Before the tenants asked the city for help, inspectors had never spotted any problem with extra units in their apartment building.

Housing officials say that the building had been inspected before, but they don't check a building's original paperwork during those routine inspections unless something makes them suspicious. After the residents raised concerns about illegal rentals, the department took a look at its files. City inspectors say four apartments at the Venice building were converted into eight by walling off bedrooms.

Read the full article here.

In an alternate reality, the city government wouldn't be calling shots on what is legal and illegal in terms of apartments, rents, sub-contracting, you name it. That would fall on the shoulders of owners and renters rather than what is at best a capricious set of rules enforced by bureaucrats whose actions are subject to wide variation.

According to Lisa Sturtevant of the National Housing Conference, regulatory approvals (zoning, inspections, and more) add up to $50,000 to the cost of new single-family dwellings in urban areas. That's a lot of scratch that ends limiting housing supply and squeezing residents in all sorts of ways.

Watch Todd Krainin's documentary "Jay Austin's Beautiful, Illegal Tiny House" to catch a glimpse of one way to make urban housing more affordable and more beautiful as well.

NEXT: The Technology That Made Nathalie Cole So Unforgettable

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  1. Ha, Snitch! Now all your cats are going to the shelter.

    1. Kitties get a reprieve.

      Her unit was not one of the ones that were specifically deemed illegal by the city.

    2. Kitties get a reprieve.

      Her unit was not one of the ones that were specifically deemed illegal by the city.

      1. Her’s isn’t but her neighors is ?

        1. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

          Clik This Link inYour Browser….

          ? ? ? ? http://www.WorkPost30.Com

      2. Staist ass hats deserve everything they get. I’ll be laughing.

      3. People who hire lawyers get a reprieve. She hired a lawyer, her neighbors didn’t. Her lawyer probably could have won her neighbors’ a stay as well, but they had already followed the letters and moved out.

  2. The article doesn’t say, but did she even try to go to the landlord first with her complaints? Doubt it.

    1. Why would she need to go to the landlord with her concerns with how the place was being rented out? As a stakeholder in the property she has just as much right as the landlord to make those decisions. The same way an employee has a right to control a job and a cake-shopper has a right to control a cake shop, a renter has a right to control a rental property. That’s the beauty of stakeholding – anybody with an interest gets a say and the interest doesn’t have to be of the financial interest sort, the idle curiosity sort of interest will do. It takes a village to say you didn’t build that, you know.

      1. J, if someone was new here, you’d have to add the /sarc-tag

        1. Agree. I lurk and started to hyperventilate until I got to the bottom and it became evident with the “it takes a village” quote. We need some kind of “roster” of who the statist fucks are. I mean, Tulpa, Tony, and Red Tony are pretty clear, but sometimes it gets murky with handle-switching.

    2. Murphy said her landlord once asked her, not-so-subtly, what it would take to get her out of the building.

      Yeah, I’m sure he would have been like totally accommodating.

      1. Some tenants (not many, but some) do get rich buyouts from rent control. Beats the city evicting over zoning, that’s for sure.

    1. Unfortunately the profiled snitch gets to keep her rent-controlled $1280 a month apt. Her snitchin’ biddy neighbors all had to move. Reading the fucking article, it sounds like her landlord may have been in collusion with the city to get everyone evicted which greatly diminishes the schadenfreude.

      Ringer had sought to evict tenants to comply with the city order, but nonetheless wanted to legitimize all the apartments.

  3. “bringing a revolving door of strangers into the complex on a tranquil stretch of Third Avenue….”

    The LA Times lies as badly as Rolling Stone.

    There is no “tranquil” in Venice Beach. It’s 1/3 Berkeley, 1/3 Hollywood, and 1/3 Compton by the beach.

  4. Bureaucracy is a dragon that cannot be wrestled into doing your bidding. Its fire will lay waste to everything.

    1. Riding the tiger is exhilarating, until you want to get off.

      1. There was a young lady of Niger
        who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
        They returned from the ride
        with the lady inside,
        and the smile on the face of the tiger

        1. I’m no poet laureate, but even I know that rhyming “tiger” and “tiger” makes for a shitty limerick…

    2. Bureaucracy Democracy is a dragon that cannot be wrestled into doing your bidding. Its fire will lay waste to everything.

      #50.5%

  5. Murphy said her landlord once asked her, not-so-subtly, what it would take to get her out of the building.

    She found out.

    “The housing department is supposed to be maintaining affordable housing,” Murphy said one Sunday afternoon at her apartment, just a few days before her scheduled eviction date. “And instead, they’re making four less apartments here ? and they’re allowing Airbnb.”

    Fewer.

    When she moved to Los Angeles from the West Village in New York City, a friend told her the only place she could possibly live was Venice. She instantly loved its eclectic vibe.

    Apparently too eclectic for her taste.

    1. You’d think the only thing needed to get her out of the apartment would simply be not offering her a lease renewal. But this is CA.

      1. What is the law in that case? I agree that no one has a “right” to renew a lease.

        1. Same as rent controlled NYC. For the tenant, at will; for the landlord, fuck you.

          1. I’m in rent control now. Never again. It only serves old people. New renters are completely fucked over. (A sample: the regulations are based on some imaginary “market rate” set by the city which is jacked up about $800 over the actual market rate in this area.) Fortunately it doesn’t apply to buildings with less than 6 units so that’s my next destination.

          2. And they wonder why rents go so high.

            Partly because it’s an indefinite arrangement. If the deal might be “til death do us part”, you have to get everything you can.

            1. “If the deal might be “til death do us part”,”

              And it can be worse yet: In SF, the courts awarded the offspring continued tenancy after the parents (the original renters) died.

              1. I keep waiting for progressives to make SF a city where poor people can move in and thrive.

                And I keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

                1. Duh, that’s what the projects are for.

                  1. I get it: they’re in kind of a bind.

                    On the one hand, they want to take care of the poor and unfortunate.

                    On the other, they enjoy living in upscale neighborhoods and charging incredibly high prices for property, rentals, goods, and services.

                    What’s a poor progressive to do?

                    Other than stop pretending to care about the poor?

                    1. “Other than stop pretending to care about the poor?”

                      The Mayor, Ed Lee, who is overmatched by the job, has vowed to make the ‘homeless’ (bums) disappear by the Superbowl week.
                      I’ve yet to notice any offers by the local proggies/politicos to accept sleep-ins in what I know for a fact are rooms which are only occasionally in use.
                      Hey, Nancy! DiFi! Babs! Open up those doors; the help can handle some extra duty!!

                    2. After reading a days worth of sociopathic bloodlust over some land dispute in the middle of fucking nowhere, progs are not my favorite people right now. I hope they choke on their hipster argyle Christmas sweaters.

              2. Do you have to pay estate taxes when you inherit the landlord’s property?

          3. Actually, IIRC landlords can just give you 30 days notice once you’re beyond the end of the lease.

            I was surprised by that. There may be ways to extend that, and of course, your city may vary.

            This was in Sacramento, CA.

  6. Murphy ? a plucky 67-year-old with reddish hair and an easy laugh

    Pretty much my image of a meddling snitch.

      1. Crusty’s traveling to Venice right now.

    1. #gingerlivesmatter

    2. “Plucky” is the new “self-righteous bitch”

      -jcr

      1. “Plucky: having or showing determined courage in the face of difficulties.”

        Words have no meaning anymore.

        1. Hey. Stranger Danger kills or leaves completely unscathed billions every year.

  7. She was grateful that her attorney had helped her stay in her beloved bit of Venice, but frustrated that her call to the city had ended up putting her through a legal odyssey and “an emotional roller coaster.”

    She didn’t care about the legal odyssey she sent property owner on. She wanted the rules followed by the landlord right up to the point it was going to negatively affect her.

    1. I agree with what you’re trying to say. What a cunt!

      1. DO OR DO NOT. THERE IS NO TRY.

      2. Its a very employee mentality.

        My sainted mother is an ex-state worker.

        She imagines all businesses are like the state: tons of employees who can effortlessly take over work, no time constraints etc.

        She couldn’t grasp, for instance, that making small companies file and face audits for 50 different state sales tax administrations was problematic.

        She also gets upset when on family vacations, I had to reply to customer emails. She believes that as a single person company, I could just put those on hold for two weeks.

        Also, she is the exact kind of person who would be enraged if a company did that to HER complaint.

    2. She was grateful that her attorney had helped her stay in her beloved bit of Venice… against the wishes of the person who, you know, actually owned that particular beloved bit of Venice. Seems like the sort of person who would sue the neighbor to keep him from cutting down the tree in his front yard because she enjoys looking at it.

      1. There’s a lot going on in this story – too much to automatically jump to the defense of the landlord as always happens around here.

        Sounds like her possible eviction worry was a problem with the city bureaucracy, not the landlord. As for the airbnb part, that is most likely a problem with the landlord not enforcing a lease – as leases typically disallow subletting.

        OTOH there is also the “that’s a nice apartment you’ve got there” quote from the article. If he was trying to break a lease, that’s problematic.

        1. 1. Her eviction worries *were* with the city – which she brought upon herself. Nothing to do with the landlord. The city simply decided that not all of the apartments are that property had had the appropriate paperwork filed to be allowed to be rented. For a brief time hers was threatened – again, by the city and not the landlord. Its the work by both her lawyer *and* the landlord that got her apartment off the chopping block.

          2. Leases typically disallow the *leasee* from from subletting. This would have nothing to do with the landlord as it was *him* renting out the other apartments in his building. His ‘crime’ was renting out those apartments for less than the mandated minimum, not that other renters were renting out their leased apartments.

          1. I was referring to this:

            a former tenant leasing multiple units was to blame for those illegal rentals and that they had since stopped

            Maybe that’s not airbnb – again, there’s a lot going on here.

            I didn’t see anything in the article about “renting out those apartments for less than the mandated minimum”.

            1. Perhaps Ag meant “minimum duration”?

          2. Further, she’s getting her rent subsidized by those paying market rate: “Unfortunately the profiled snitch gets to keep her rent-controlled $1280 a month apt.”
            We have brain-deads in SF who are *certain* that the ‘housing crisis’ can be solved if we require new developments to have 40% of the units BLM (below market rate). These same brain-deads refused to understand that the result is a higher market rate for all units.

          3. This would have nothing to do with the landlord as it was *him* renting out the other apartments in his building

            Well, probably not. OTOH, if you’re a landlord and you have a tenant with a rent controlled lease who wants to rent it out on AirBnb for more than the tenant’s rent, maybe you ask the tenant to kick you back some of that money in order to prevent you from getting the person evicted?

            It *could* have been the tenant on her own, sure. But it could be the tenant and landlord colluding, you never know.

  8. Ha ha!

    /Nelson

    1. that’s “HA ha!”

  9. Live by Big Brother, Die by Big Brother.

    Smells like Justice to me.

  10. City inspectors said they spotted the rentals that bothered Murphy. But they also concluded that only four of the eight units in the building had been legally permitted, according to city documents.

    ?

    At a city hearing in October, attorney Harold Greenberg, who represents building owner Richard Ringer, contested the idea that the units were illegal. He pointed to an old document from the county assessor to argue that the Venice building had eight units as early as 1956. Greenberg said Ringer had sought to evict tenants to comply with the city order, but nonetheless wanted to legitimize all the apartments.

    Forget the AirBHB thing. An arrangement that was satisfactory to every one involved for sixty fucking years now needs to be undone because of conflicting paperwork. Sweet Zombie Jesus, I fucking love Bureaucracy.

    1. That makes it even worse! For 60 long years the Holy Will of Bureaucracy has been denied. Unless they appease It immediately there’s no telling what terrible plagues It’s righteous anger will unleash.

  11. Reminds me of an old lady who bought a beachfront property to live in, next door to one I like to rent for the summers.

    It was a public beach, except for between her ears. If we set up a chair on the beach behind her property, she’s call and complain. If we left stuff on that part of the beach temporarily, she would come out and move it over to the rental’s side.

    I had endless fun screwing with her. Invite some friends, have a party right in front of her house. It was great.

    All I could think is: what a bitch. She bought a house on the beach to retire on, and all she could do was bitch and moan about people on “her” public beach.

    People like this don’t give a shit about what the law is. They want control over other people. If the law’s on their side, great. If not, they’ll whine and mess with your stuff anyway. What they can’t do is learn to get over it, let go, relax, and have fun.

    I hope she enjoys dying angry. It was fun to watch.

    1. What state? CA has some funky laws. Coastal commission, mean high tide line, etc etc

      1. NC.

        I don’t get it. You can go buy properties and own the beach. I assume she loved the idea of tax payers maintaining a beach, of which the portion directly behind her house benefited her and her property more than anyone else in the state.

        Instead, it wasn’t good enough, because she couldn’t kick people out. Go figure.

        Hope she enjoys SS, though, so maybe she gets the last laugh after she gargles “Get off of my beach!”, rolls over, and dies.

        1. The best revenge is living well.

  12. As much as Murphy deserved this, there were other tenants in that building who didn’t. Fuck everything about this.

    -jcr

    1. “As much as Murphy deserved this, there were other tenants in that building who didn’t.”

      If they were all free-riding on the landlord, my sympathy is missing.

      1. Oh FFS. Nobody coerced the landlord into renting to anybody. He knew the rules. The pro-landlord bias is getting a little ridiculous. From what I can tell, the only thing she complained about was the revolving-door tenants next door – which was perpetrated by the actual tenants according to the landlord and therefore probably against their lease.

        1. “The pro-landlord bias is getting a little ridiculous”

          You’ll have to excuse my property rights bias.

          1. Of course. There are also leases to consider. His property rights don’t nullify that.

            1. I was going to respond to this idiocy, but I’ll just leave it so anyone can experience the stupid in all its glory.

              1. So a lease is not a contract? From my reading of the article, the landlord violated the neighbor’s lease by allowing them to sublet. That was the woman’s complaint.

                1. Rhywun|1.3.16 @ 11:46PM|#
                  “So a lease is not a contract?”

                  Do you agree that property rights are granted by a benevolent government?
                  Fuck off, slaver

                2. …the landlord violated the neighbor’s lease by allowing them to sublet.

                  That’s pretty damned silly. You’re not violating a contract by letting the other party violate the terms. The only party that could have been said to have been violating the terms of the contract was the other neighbor. The landlord, the “injured” party was okay with it. This old coot doesn’t have the right to dictate the terms of the landlord’s other contracts.

            2. The landlord isn’t free to negotiate the terms of these leases.

              In any case, this isn’t primarily about the landlord’s property rights, it is about everybody else’s, because this woman is enriching herself at the expense of other tax payers, and not just in LA.

        2. Rhywun|1.3.16 @ 11:08PM|#
          “Oh FFS. Nobody coerced the landlord into renting to anybody.”

          So, Rhywun, did you take stupid pills? Are you this stupid without pills? Is the stupid genetic or environmental?
          What an imbecile; fuck off.

          1. What an imbecile; fuck off.

            That’s classy. Thanks for not responding with an actual argument.

            1. Fuck off, slaver.
              I hope that meets your rent-seeking values as ‘classy’.

              1. He’s a valued commenter. I trust that this is a misunderstanding.

                1. I think too many people are jumping to too many conclusions about motives.

                  I can assure you I am fully on-board with property rights – as if that’s even a question.

                  1. Rhywun|1.4.16 @ 12:15AM|#
                    “I think too many people are jumping to too many conclusions about motives.”

                    It seems your gripe about rent control is your lack of profit by government price-fixing:
                    “I’m in rent control now. Never again. It only serves old people. New renters are completely fucked over. (A sample: the regulations are based on some imaginary “market rate” set by the city which is jacked up about $800 over the actual market rate in this area.) Fortunately it doesn’t apply to buildings with less than 6 units so that’s my next destination.”

                    “I can assure you I am fully on-board with property rights – as if that’s even a question.”
                    Uh, yeah, it certainly *is* a question. You seem to be fine with the government taking property if the timing were such that the owner knew it was to be taken and if your ox isn’t gored.

                    Go ahead, please explain how government price fixing is an acceptable arrangement; I’ll be happy to see it.

                    1. Go ahead, please explain how government price fixing is an acceptable arrangement; I’ll be happy to see it.

                      I’m not going to explain the words you’re putting in my mouth, because I never said them.

                2. Pl?ya Manhattan.|1.4.16 @ 12:11AM|#
                  “He’s a valued commenter. I trust that this is a misunderstanding.”

                  See below; he’s a rent-seeking slaver.

            2. If I understand this situation correctly, the lady “snitched” about a possible airbnb scheme at her apartment, but when the inspector reviewed certain documents to address the complaint, he or she discovered that 4 of the 8 units in the place were illegal.

              So whether the apartment was a airbnb location should be moot point, since this lady and others were living places that should not have been available to them to begin with. SHE wasn’t renting her apartment to strangers, but that’s irrelevant.

      2. Who was free-riding on the landlord? The article states

        Greenberg, the attorney representing Ringer, said a former tenant leasing multiple units was to blame for those illegal rentals and that they had since stopped.

        But that seems like a rather far-fetched theory. A tenant turned one apartment into two (or two into three or four or whatever) and the owner never noticed. How does this happen without new doors, locks, walls and so forth being brought into the picture? None of the other tenants complained about the construction noise, asked any questions or in any way brought this illegal construction to the owner’s attention? In any case, the provenance of these bootleg apartments seems to be in doubt.

        The article also indicates that the owner is paying for relocation costs. This suggests to me that the owner is culpable legally. Maybe he didn’t hire the workers to build the bootleg units, but it’s the reasonable man standard. A reasonable man would know that his apartment building with only 4 units had sprouted 4 more apartments.

        1. The former tenant rents one unit. He turns it into Air BnB. Makes money.

          He then asks about renting other units. He probably has a story about family coming to live near him.

          Owner is absentee – lives in Santa Barbara – and is just happy to have rent paid on time, agrees.

          Keep in mind the owner might be 75 retired doctor and not hip to “air BnB” at all.

  13. In a righteous world, snitches get stitches.

  14. This article’s premise is so adolescent: really, you think that a better reality would be one in which the government provided no oversight and allowed landlords and tenants to do whatever is most convenient? That’d be untenable precisely because such actors would only do what is in their immediate financial and housing interests, while ignoring long term dangers such as fire risks, overcrowding, etc. If the city of LA didn’t regulate housing, there’d be dangerous units that ignore the most basic safety measures. In other words, you’d have death traps. Not to mention that, when it comes to Airbnb, short term rentals devastate local housing markets. As a landlord in LA, I’m often frustrated with regulations when they cost me money, as I have a right to be. But the general public also has a right to safe, regulated housing, not slums.

    1. You know, I can accept certain conditions of housing regulations that provide for actual safety. I would prefer against it, but I could, at least, accept that there is some desire against a high-rise inferno killing a couple dozen families.

      But the regulations in CA, and a lot of other places, go so far beyond “actual safety” that it’s not even a consideration for me when arguing against the bureaucracy of the housing situation. Zoning? Pointless. Lease requirements? Ridiculous. Rent control? Down right interfering. Sprinkler system regulations? You are kidding me, right?

      If anything, things like rent control destroy safety because as time goes on, you become less able to afford repairs/updates to your rental unit(s). Even the forced upgrades for things like the electrical requirements don’t promote safety as they slow down the rate of updating equipment.

      A house I was looking at had aluminum wires that weren’t properly installed (under gauged and connected to copper terminals). When I looked at getting a permit to simply swap that aluminum with far-less-likely-to-burn-everyone-to-death copper wiring (~$300 for a role of copper wire plus a day or two of time), I would also have had to upgrade the service connection, move the service panel and breaker box from 3ft to 5 ft, and pull down the drywall for inspectors to check on all of the junctions in the house.

      Well that’s only $10K – $15K of extra cost with my rewire. I left the wire alone and never looked back.

      1. Lawn sprinkler system regulations, to clarify.

    2. “you think that a better reality would be one in which the government provided no oversight and allowed landlords and tenants to do whatever is most convenient?”

      Yes.

      Given the fantastically spotty nature of the oversight that is actually provided now, I cannot believe making it PREDICTABLY lax, instead of randomly lax, would make anything worse.

      “such actors would only do what is in their immediate financial and housing interests”

      And your theory is that a dozen bureaucrats knowing little or nothing of the actual situation are likely to make better decisions?

      “ignoring long term dangers such as fire risks, overcrowding, etc.”

      Why exactly would people WHO ACTUALLY LIVE IN THE BUILDING be insensitive to fire and over-crowding?

      “If the city of LA didn’t regulate housing, there’d be dangerous units that ignore the most basic safety measures.”

      The city of LA does regulate housing, and there are still dangerous units that ignore the most basic safety measures. The question is, does the regulation of housing improve the situation, and I don’t see any evidence it does.

      “when it comes to Airbnb, short term rentals devastate local housing markets”

      No, regulation devastate local housing markets.

      “the general public also has a right to safe, regulated housing”

      Ah, yes, the famous 29th Amendment, guaranteeing people’s right to regulated housing.

    3. Do you think that any interest was served by making 4 of the 8 units illegal?

      Not to mention that, when it comes to Airbnb, short term rentals devastate local housing markets

      Short term rentals play havoc with rent control, but certainly don’t “devastate local housing markets” in the absence of that.

      Considering that rent control reduces the stock of safe housing and reduces the quality of the housing stock (as agreed upon by socialist economists as well), I’m not sure where you’re coming from.

    4. Berkman|1.4.16 @ 1:45PM|#
      “This article’s premise is so adolescent:”

      Berkman’s post is so imbecilic.
      Fuck off, slaver.

  15. So really, the only thing keeping you from running your rentals in a way that makes them safety hazard death traps is because of gov’t regulation? If not, you won’t extend this same presumption to your fellow landlords?

    1. Oops, this was in reply to Berkman: As a landlord in LA,

  16. The sad thing is that the snitch won. Not all snitching is bad. This complaint, however, is the kind that exposes the ridiculous stupidity of too much government.

  17. ” a tranquil stretch of Third Avenue”

    There is a tranquil part of Venice?

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