Just as that compromise legislation regarding short-term rentals like Airbnb makes its way through Board of Supervisors approvals, City Attorney Dennis Herrera is taking two landlords to task for doing something the new law would continue to rule illegal. In two new civil lawsuits, Herrera's office chose to single out a pair of building owners who invoked the Ellis Act to evict disabled tenants, among others, in order to flip the properties as vacation rentals something that would be illegal under the Ellis Act anyway, regardless of whether the rentals were short- or long-term.
"In the midst of a housing crisis of historic proportions," Herrera says in a statement, "illegal short-term rental conversions of our scarce residential housing stock risks becoming a major contributing factor."
One case accuses landlords Darren and Valerie Lee for repeatedly and defiantly flouting the law and the Planning Department after turning two units at 3073-3075 Clay Street into luxury vacation rentals, following Ellis Act evictions in 2005. They evicted a disabled tenant who had lived there for ten years and was paying $1,087 a month, and turned that unit into a high-end rental, renting for $5,000-$7,038 per month. Since 2009 the Lees have been advertising the other unit on sites like Homeaway and VRBO as a prime Pacific Heights vacation rental, charging between $395 and $595 a night for 3-night minimum stays.
San Francisco’s Planning Department repeatedly cited the Lees for their illegal use of the property for commercial tourist lodging, even collecting penalties of as much $250 per day for violations. The Lees who at one point assured Planning Department officials that their illegal conduct had stopped then defiantly resumed marketing and renting their property to tourists.
The other defendants Herrera is going after are Lev, Tamara and Tatyana Yurovsky who owned two apartments at 734 and 790 Bay Street. They evicted a long-term disabled tenant from one, using the Ellis Act, and used Airbnb to market both at rates of $165-$320 per night.
Airbnb responded to the lawsuits in a statement:
If a small number of predatory landlords are abusing platforms like ours to illegally evict tenants in search of a quick buck, we wholeheartedly support efforts to bring those landlords to justice and applaud the city attorney for his action.
Socketsite noted a couple years ago that such lawsuits, and/or the potential for fines from the city as soon as neighbors started complaining, were likely on the way. And back in 2012, when they posted that, as they report, there were only 2,518 apartments in town listed on AirBnB. Now there are 6,200.