As details are emerging that suggest an Airbnb in Orinda had been used by guests to host loud parties before Thursday night's Halloween shindig that ended in the shooting deaths of four people, questions are swirling about who may be held responsible.
The small town of Orinda already had the home at 114 Lucille Way on its radar after citing the homeowner twice in the last year for violating local parking ordinances and exceeding the legal capacity of the home. As the Chronicle reports, homeowners Michael Wang and Wenlin Lou received two notices of violation from the City of Orinda, after which the homeowners allegedly made changes to the Airbnb listing for the home.
Orinda City Manager Steve Salomon tells the Chronicle, "We had a pretty strong conversation with the owners, along with some documentation. We felt that they had corrected their behavior, but obviously that didn’t happen."
Orinda, like many cities around the country, has enacted legislation governing short-term rentals, and in the case of the Wang-Lou home on Lucille Way, the maximum occupancy during a short-term rental is 13 people.
Apparently, there were two parties at the property back in February that spurred complaints from neighbors — both of which allegedly involved teenagers and twentysomethings drinking and playing loud music. There was another complaint lodged with the city as recently as February about overflowing garbage at 114 Lucille Way. And one neighbor tells the Chronicle that they "begged" the city to shut down the short-term rental.
ABC 7 received a copy of the city's timeline regarding its communication with the homeowners. It shows the case was closed, and it also shows that the city received an email complaint from a neighbor about the loud party as it was beginning Thursday night, at 9:35 p.m. The shooting occurred at around 10:45 p.m.
The homeowners reportedly bought the home as a flip, renovating it in the last two years and then they were unable to sell it. The short-term rental registration with the city dates back to November 2018.
Wang tried to shift blame to Airbnb, saying to the Chronicle on Friday that homeowners "can't control" who rents their homes on the platform, and adding, "Airbnb does not release the customer information before they really book, so we have no way to know. We also tell them there’s a maximum [number of] people and no parties, but people lie."
As for who'll be held accountable in the shooting, former Alameda County prosecutor Darryl Stallworth tells the paper that no one is likely to face criminal charges besides the shooter or shooters themselves. "What people do in your house is not your responsibility," says Stallworth. Further she says that the renter who threw the party can't be held criminally liable either, even if they lied about their reason for renting the house.
But real estate lawyer Daniel Bornstein tells the Chron that a case civil liability is more than likely going to arise, with Airbnb, the renters, and the homeowners all named as defendants. "Someone will have to compensate someone for the harm that was generated in that house," Bornstein says.