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Landlords Who Booted Tenants From Rent-Controlled Units Face Criminal Charges

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The tenants say they found their old apartments on Airbnb

Los Angeles is sending a message to landlords who evict tenants from rent-controlled units in order to list them on Airbnb for some quick cash.

City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Monday that he is filing criminal charges against the owners of one formerly rent-controlled building in the Fairfax District. Prosecutors allege the property owner, Carol Jean Alsman, booted tenants, without giving them, "the opportunity to re-rent the units before they were put back on the market," which would be a violation of city law, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

It's the first time city prosecutors have brought such a case, and the move is "meant to send a signal to other landlords breaking city laws at a time when L.A. is facing an affordable-housing crisis," the Los Angeles Times reports.

"In a city with a profound shortage of affordable housing, unlawfully converting rental units to operate hotels has got to stop," Feuer said in a statement. "My office will continue to intervene to keep rent-stabilized units on the market and hold owners accountable for not complying with the law."

Rent-controlled apartments are being taken off the market at an accelerated pace. Just last year, 1,137 units were removed.

The tenants of the four-unit apartment building in Fairfax made news last year, when, after they were evicted from their apartments, they said they found their former residences listed on short-term rental sites Airbnb and HomeAway. The Airbnb listing advertised one of the apartments for $550 a night. The tenants are suing Alsman and LSJB Investments LLC under the Ellis Act.

The Ellis Act is supposed to protect tenants when landlords want to get out of the rental business. It mandates that landlords pay relocation expenses, which Alsman and LSJB did, the city attorney says, but he said, they didn't alert the tenants that units would be rented out again in five years or less, as the law requires.

Feuer also filed civil charges against three other LA landlords, two in Venice and one in Hollywood, for, he said, running their apartment buildings as de facto hotels.