Los Angeles Appellate Division Decision: Sharing Ones Home Is an Illegal Purpose

In a Published Opinion of the Los Angeles Superior Court Appellate Division, a Tenant Sharing Their Apartment Thru the Website Airbnb.com, Constitutes an "Illegal Purpose"

The Los Angeles Superior Court Appellate Division’s Opinion, Chen v. Kraft (2016) has been certified for publication and is now case law.  The Opinion, published January 13, 2016, makes it illegal for a tenant to rent a room in their apartment, even if the tenant obtains written permission from the landlord to do so, if the court finds such an act may violate a zoning ordinance without the Zoning Administration’s determination.

The Request to Certify Opinion for Publication included the following statement; “Chen applies existing law to a novel set of facts and involves an issue of burgeoning public interest, specifically stating, “Interest groups seeking to amend the zoning code, should first have a definitive statement from the courts on what the city law is, before city law can be amended”.

"Interest groups seeking to amend the zoning code, should first have a definitive statement from the courts on what the city law is, before city law can be amended".

Rosario Perry, Attorney

Chen v. Kraft (2016) was a summary proceeding, (a motion for summary judgment), within a summary proceeding (an unlawful detainer action) and the eviction was effectuated strictly on the landlord’s accusation of the violation and reference to various codes within the Los Angeles Municipal Code.  There was no city involvement in the determination of the zoning violation. 

The Plaintiff and Respondent, Chen, retained the services of Santa Monica attorney, Rosario Perry, successfully evicting the tenant under the Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 151.09 (a) (4) “using the premises for any illegal purpose” (L.A.M.C. 151.09 (a) (4)).

And although, the building itself is not specified in the Opinion, the premises at issue is a four-unit apartment house.  The tenant and defendant, Joelle Kraft admitting to renting rooms in her apartment via the third party Internet platform, Airbnb.com.  Appellate and defendant believed her use was not in violation of any laws.

The Appellate Division, however, affirmed the lower court’s decision, that the “defendant was operating a bed and facility and/or transient occupancy residential structure and the defendant’s use of the premises in this manner was illegal and in violation of LAMC 12.08 and 12.21.” 

The Plaintiff’s evidence of this violation consisted of her own declaration, a copy of the property’s parcel report generated on-line from the City’s Zone Information Map Access System and a Property Profile report generated from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety website.  Both indicated the property to be located in an R1-1, single-family zone.

The Opinion states; “With respect to the operation of a bed and breakfast or transient occupancy in the premises, plaintiff submitted evidence, inter alia, in the form of testimony from defendant’s deposition wherein she stated as follows: “[Question:] And so would it be correct to say – accurate to say that from the time – at least from the time of January 22nd, 2014 through today [May 7, 2014], you were running Airbnb business from your apartment? [¶] [Defendant:] I would say I’m listing – I have listings on Airbnb that – yes, running today. [¶] [Question:] So the answer is you’re running – it’s an Airbnb business, isn’t it? [¶] [Defendant:] Yes.

 In addition to the plaintiff also submitted a City of Los Angeles Tax Registration Certificate issued to the defendant indicating payment of a Transient Occupancy Tax with respect to the premises. Based on this evidence, the Appellate court found the plaintiff met her initial burden on the motion.

In opposition, defendant presented a 2009 rental lease addendum signed by Chen's predecessor in interest, allowing the tenant to list her rooms on the Airbnb website and host guests from the website, without violating the existing rental agreement.  The Appellate Division found the consent of the landlord constituted an illegal contract and was therefore void and unenforceable.

Chen v. Kraft, (2016) Los Angeles Superior Court case no. 14R01792, Appellate Division case no. BV031047.

Certified for Publication January 13, 2016, the court’s opinion can be found at http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions.htm

For more information, go to www.chenvkraft.com

Contact: Nicole Jones

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Nicole Jones
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