Nearly 1 in 5 Airbnb listings in L.A. violated city law, advocacy group says

L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin at a 2019 news conference about short-term rental enforcement.
L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin and community groups called in 2019 for the city to move ahead with enforcement of short-term rental regulations.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Nearly 1 out of every 5 listings advertised by Airbnb hosts in Los Angeles over a 12-month period failed to comply with the city’s regulations on short-term rentals, according to a report prepared by a coalition of groups critical of the home-sharing industry.

Better Neighbors LA, a coalition that includes hotel employees, renters’ rights groups and housing advocates, said in its 44-page report that its researchers suspect that as many as two-thirds of Airbnb’s listings in L.A. between November 2020 and October 2021 may have been out of compliance.

The coalition called on the city to beef up enforcement of its short-term rental law, by focusing on “the most egregious violators” and issuing larger fines for repeat offenders.


Without vigorous enforcement, the fines issued by the city simply become a cost of doing business for short-term rental hosts, said attorney Nancy Hanna, a spokeswoman for the coalition, whose members include Unite Here Local 11, a union that represents hotel workers.

In their lawsuit, the city’s lawyers said about 30% of the transactions by HomeAway between Nov. 7 and Dec. 7 did not have a valid registration number or pending registration status number.

The report comes roughly a week after City Atty. Mike Feuer filed a lawsuit against the online vacation rental company HomeAway, saying it repeatedly violated the city’s home-sharing ordinance last year. Feuer alleged in his lawsuit that HomeAway did not provide a valid home-sharing registration number or a pending registration status number in nearly 30% of listings that were examined.

Better Neighbors LA said its analysis was prepared using city records, data scraped from hosting platforms and its own research. A representative of Airbnb took aim at the report, saying it relied on “questionable statistics” and was engineered by “a special interest group in the pocket of the hotel industry.”

Airbnb spokeswoman Liz DeBold Fusco did not identify the group. But she said the report was written solely to “undermine the ability of local residents to responsibly share their home and benefit ... the entire citywide economy.”

Fusco said, Airbnb is the only short-term rental company to have reached an enforcement agreement with the city. That pact requires it to share information and take down listings that are flagged as illegal by the Department of City Planning.

“As part of that, we have removed thousands of listings at the request of the city, in accordance with the law — and we will continue to do so going forward,” she said.

Asked about calls for additional penalties, planning department spokeswoman Nora Frost said her agency has referred more than 2,100 illegal listings for citations since enforcement began in 2019. During that period, she said, the number of short-term rental listings decreased overall by more than 80%, dropping from 36,660 to about 6,600.

The department is targeting repeat offenders by seeking fines for a second violation that are 10 times the amount of the first, Frost said.

“We’ve escalated the cost of our citations to further deter bad actors,” she said.

Critics of Airbnb, Vrbo and other platforms have long argued that short-term rentals are driving up rents in Southern California, decreasing the supply of residential units available to residents. They say that competition from the home-sharing industry is costing hotel workers their jobs. And they contend that some hosts have turned their rentals into neighborhood nuisances.

Elden Rhoads, who lives at Park La Brea, said she personally experienced that disruption. During Labor Day last year, she said, two units on the same floor of her building were rented to two large groups of college-age men, who drank and played music late into the night.

“They were going in and out, slamming the doors, smoking in the communal hallway, smoking in the stairwell — both tobacco and marijuana,” Rhoads said.

The City Council approved its home-sharing ordinance in 2018, requiring short-term rental hosts to register with the city and prohibiting second homes and investment property from being listed or leased.

In its report, Better Neighbors LA concluded that an Airbnb listing was out of compliance if it lacked an accurate registration number or if the property owner received a “false exemption” under the city’s short-term rental law, by inaccurately identifying the location as a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast.

The coalition urged city leaders to seek data-sharing agreements with other short-term rental platforms. The report also said the city should set up an online portal to allow residents to determine on their own whether a nearby rental is operating legally.