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LOS ANGELES— A new lawsuit filed in Los Angeles superior court on Tuesday shows how one Hollywood landlord resorted to alleged fraud and negligence to make an end-run around city and state housing laws. The complaint underscores the need for city leaders to take action to protect Los Angeles’ dwindling affordable housing stock.
A new complaint filed by four former tenants of a Hollywood apartment building shows how landlord Jason Vogel “devised a scheme to circumvent the Los Angeles rent control laws by turning the apartment building into an unlicensed hotel,” driving out tenants who were protected by rent-control ordinances.
“Los Angeles is one of the most unaffordable cities in the country,” said Larry Gross, Executive Director of the tenants’ rights group Coalition for Economic Survival. “While studies indicate we are in need of over 500,000 new affordable housing units countywide, we have lost over 20,000 rent controlled affordable units to demolition and conversion to high-priced luxury units in the City of Los Angeles since 2001. Now, bad actors are trying to skirt existing law and turn their rent-controlled properties into makeshift, deregulated hotels, making our already dire affordable housing crisis situation worse.”
The city’s housing crisis has been compounded by bad actors like Vogel who see the rise of short-term rentals as a way to skirt tenant protections and other key housing laws.
“The building was more than a place to live – it was a bona fide community,” says the complaint. “Residents regularly had communal meals in the complex’s well-tended garden and dined together several times per week.”
But in his effort to drive tenants out, Vogel stopped performing routine maintenance on the building. “After the resulting sewage leaks, rats, and maggots drove the long-term tenants out,” the complain says, Vogel moved to “rent their apartments to tourists on a short-term, revolving-door basis by using websites such as AirBNB and Craigslist.”
Vogel also violated the Ellis Act, the state law that allows landlords to evict tenants if a family member is going to move in to the unit. Vogel notified a number of other tenants that he was going to move a relative or an on-site property manager into their apartments but “this did not happen,” according to the lawsuit. “Instead, once the long-term tenants of one or more of those apartment moved out … Vogel converted their apartments into AirBNB rentals.”
Now, former tenants are seeking damages and affordable housing advocates are urging city leaders to put a stop to this type of illegal behavior, which is stoking the worst affordable housing crisis in our history.
“Bad actors like Jason Vogel must not be allowed to destroy more of the city’s scarce affordable housing stock. The City Council must take the necessary action to prohibit the use of rent controlled for short-term rentals,” said Gross.
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