Brentwood Airbnb tenant refuses to leave or pay rent for 540 days
Legal conundrum could allow short-term occupant “to stay in it rent-free forever”
She may be the ultimate squatter: a woman who rented an Airbnb guesthouse in the hills of Brentwood hasn’t paid rent for at least 540 days, and she refuses to leave.
Dr. Sascha Jovanovic, a Dutch native with a dental surgery practice in Santa Monica, rented out his accessory dwelling unit via the home-sharing platform to Elizabeth Hirschhorn, whose Airbnb stay ended in April last year, the Los Angeles Times reported. She hasn’t paid rent since.
The overstay of an extended Airbnb rental at 1235 North Tigertail Road has now become the subject of competing lawsuits.
Hirschhorn claims she has a right to stay — while a judge has ruled that, under L.A.’s rent control law, there’s no legal reason to evict her.
She has refused to move out unless Jovanovic pays her a relocation fee of $100,000, according to a settlement offer.
“I tried to be a kind host,” Jovanovic told the Times. “I had no idea she would become what she has become.”
Hirschhorn’s attorney, Colin Walshok, said she wasn’t required to pay rent because the city had never approved the unit for occupancy and that its shower was built without a permit.
“The landlord broke the law and tried to make money by renting out an illegal bootleg unit,” Walshok told the Times. “After he was caught, instead of doing the right thing, he has resorted to bullying, harassment and the filing of frivolous lawsuits containing elaborate false stories, all in an attempt to cover his tracks.”
Jovanovic, a native of Amsterdam, in 2010 commissioned a sustainable dream house designed by Lorcan O’Herlihy in Crestwood Hills, near Getty Center. Nine years later, he rented out a small guesthouse on Airbnb, generating five-star reviews.
In September 2021, Hirschhorn rented it for six months through Airbnb for $105 per night, with fees bringing the total to $20,793 for 187 nights.
The landlord requested to repair water damage and mold around a sink that weren’t there before her stay. But Hirschhorn declined offers to stay in a hotel at the owner’s expense, or in his home, citing disabilities, extreme chemical sensitivities and the pandemic.
When it was clear she wasn’t leaving, or allowing any access inside, the two informally agreed that she could stay until April 12 so she could find another place, according to Jovanovic’s lawsuit.
Extending the lease beyond March 19, the original move-out date, was a major error on Jovanovic’s part, according to the Times. It allowed Airbnb to turn its back on the dispute.
April 12, 2022, came and went and Hirschhorn didn’t budge. That was the last day she paid rent, 540 days ago as of Oct. 4. Jovanovic has tried serving multiple eviction notices, to no avail.
A Los Angeles CIty Building & Safety Department investigator found two code violations in the ADU: It wasn’t approved for occupancy, and it had an unpermitted shower.
The city investigator concluded that, because the unit violated city codes, Jovanovic had to withdraw his eviction notices until he could prove his unit was in compliance. The investigator also concluded the ADU is subject to L.A.’s rent control ordinance, giving Hirschhorn stronger tenant protections.
Jovanovic tried accessing his guest house to obtain the necessary permits and make repairs, but it was too late, according to the Times. Hirschhorn wouldn’t let him inside. Last month, the Department of Building & Safety sent him a $660 fee for not getting the unit up to code.
Jovanovic and his attorney, Sebastian Rucci, are now suing Hirschhorn with two cases: a damages complaint to recoup $58,000 in unpaid rent, and an unlawful detainer complaint to evict her.
A judge agreed with Hirschhorn’s claim that, because there are two units on the property, the city’s rent stabilization ordinance applies. He dismissed Jovanic’s lawsuit, which he’s appealing.
“She’s the tenant from hell,” Rucci told the Times. “If she’s right, the theory is that if a landlord has something that isn’t permitted, then you can stay in it rent-free forever.”
— Dana Bartholomew