June 20, 2024

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Woman rented $1.7 million house turned into illegal Airbnb: Lawsuit

Woman rented $1.7 million house turned into illegal Airbnb: Lawsuit

Drone shot of homes in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
halbergman/Getty Images

  • A woman has rented her $1.675 million Los Angeles home to a musician in 2022.
  • According to the Los Angeles Times, he then illegally rented it out on Airbnb while living on another continent.
  • According to the Times, illegal Airbnb listings generated $215,950 — about $13,500 per month.

A 31-year-old woman rented her $1.675 million Los Angeles home to a musician who then turned it into an illegal cash cow via Airbnb while he lived in the UK, according to the British Daily Mail. The lawsuit was seen by the Los Angeles Times.

Nikita Sriram bought the property, which consists of a three-bedroom main house and a separate one-bedroom back house with a loft, in March 2022, The Times reported.

At the time, Sriram was renting a house in Los Feliz and didn’t want to break the lease, so she decided to rent her house to 36-year-old Nicholas Jarzabek, according to the Times.

“It seemed like the perfect tenant until it turned into a nightmare,” Sriram told the outlet.

According to the Times, during his first year as a tenant, Jarzabek paid his $8,500 rent on time or early, and did not file repair requests.

However, the newspaper said that in December 2023, Sriram discovered that her home was listed on Airbnb, in violation of the rental agreement.

The Times reported that police were called after the ADT alarm was repeatedly raised, with ADT telling Sriram that it was Airbnb guests who raised the alarm.

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When confronted, Jarzabek denied subletting the property, but Sriram found listings for him on Airbnb, the Times reported.

Initially, the Airbnb account was hosted by a guy named Rich Jacobs. It is unclear whether this was an alias for Grzabek or one of his associates.

The main house is listed for $688 per night, and the back property for $496, with the two properties together receiving more than 100 reviews on Airbnb, according to the Times.

The subpoena showed that for 16 months between 2022 and 2023, the Airbnb listing generated $215,954, or about $13,500 per month, according to the Times.

In February, the Times said Sriram had foreclosed on the home to contact the account holder, writing: “Stop relisting this property. You are not authorized to sublease this property!”

But according to the newspaper, she received the response: “Dear Nikita, welcome and thank you. You will have a good time here.”

The listings were temporarily removed, but new ones soon appeared.

According to the lawsuit reviewed by the newspaper, the real estate listings omitted exterior shots and provided a false address approximately one mile away from the actual location.

Although Sriram considered changing the locks, she did not want to violate the terms of the lease, which might result in her having to pay damages. Instead, she filed for eviction through Los Angeles Superior Court and filed a cease-and-desist request with Jarzabek’s attorneys, the newspaper said.

Throughout the legal proceedings, the property continued to be rented out under a new account, a rental company called Monthier, which had other listings throughout Los Angeles.

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Montier did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Sriram told The Times that she eventually resorted to coming to the hotel to warn guests about the situation.

“I felt terrible. I didn’t want to ruin their vacation,” she said, but added: “This is our only recourse because Airbnb hasn’t given us any help.”

Airbnb confirmed to the Times that the listing is no longer active and the account associated with Jacobs has been deleted. The company did not immediately respond to BI’s request for comment.

As part of the lawsuit, Sriram subpoenaed Airbnb for information about Jarzabek, and discovered that the phone number listed for Jacobs was a British number, according to the Times.

The newspaper said that posts on Instagram show Jarzabek performing in London bars under the name Nick Diver.

The Instagram account associated with Diver did not immediately respond to BI’s request for comment.

“If the city can’t figure out how to crack down on Airbnb, it should err on the side of caution and ban the platform until it can form a task force to manage it,” Sriram told the newspaper.

According to the Times, Jarzabek stopped paying rent after Sriram filed an eviction notice. She told the newspaper she estimates she lost $100,000 this year due to property damage, legal fees and lost rent.

Sriram’s unlawful detainer lawsuit was recently approved, allowing her to move forward with the eviction, the Times reported.

She also obtained a possession order allowing the police chief to seize control of the property and return it to her, the newspaper said. However, there is a waiting list of several months for this service.

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