Airbnb User Can't Get Squatter Out of Her House

Jul 21 at 2pm

In a city where property values have made housing nearly inaccessible to tourists and renters alike, Airbnb has become a double edged sword, both helping and hurting the availability of reasonable places to crash. The latest problem for the company, though, comes from a dirty loophole nobody seemed to see coming – the expensive battle to evict an Airbnb tenant who’s overstayed his welcome.

SF Gate reports on Cory Tschogl, who lives in San Francisco but rents out her Palm Springs condo on Airbnb. In late May, a guest booked a 44-day stay in her condo, and after one month, stopped payment on his credit card and told her he wasn’t leaving. Attempts to evict him from what was supposed to be a short term stay have been met with threats of a lawsuit, since under California Tenant’s Rights, anybody who maintains residence for 30 days and is not short on payment is considered a legal tenant. A landlord must go through a formal eviction process to get them out – this requires, at the very least, one month’s notice to evict, not to mention additional costs from legal fees and actual eviction proceedings. Tschogl even offered to refund the entire cost of the squatter's stay, as well as pay for a hotel room while the man found another place to live.

But Tschogl told SFGate reporters that her renter has refused to budge, claiming that he was “legally occupying the condo and that loss of electricity would threaten the work he does at home that brings in $1,000 to $7,000 a day.” Unfortunately, in cases such as these, it seems Airbnb does not provide an easy way to coordinate with its corporate offices. It took a few weeks (and a small Twitter campaign by Tschogl’s sister) for the company to step up and apologize, although it eventually did, and to offer to help with legal fees. Tschogl could still be paying a hefty sum to get this guy out of her condo.

One of the biggest issues with home sharing is the wave of “new landlords” created by Craigslist, Airbnb, and Flipkey subletters. Sadly, when they're unaware of the intricacies of tenant law, they can easily be taken advantage of. The purpose of Airbnb was supposed to remove the risk from a renter’s hands, by verifying identities, rating experiences, and collecting payment in advance; but obviously the system isn't foolproof. In taking on the responsibilities of a landlord, however temporarily, one should research any potentially problematic situations, considering that some tenants are being dropped from their leases for even listing their apartments online. Now that Airbnb been valued at $10 billion dollars, the company should have a quick and airtight way of dealing with these issues head on. Otherwise it might not just be bitter homeowners trying to outlaw the whole subletting system, but screwed over hosts too.

[Via SFGate; photo by Sierra Hartman]

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