Airbnb Guest Won't Leave Luxury Estate—or Pay

Landlord has been unable to evict her
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2023 7:15 AM CDT
Airbnb Guest Won't Leave Luxury Estate—or Pay
Stock photo including views of Brentwood and the Los Angeles skyline.   (Getty Images / Adam Mustafa)

Elizabeth Hirschhorn rented a Los Angeles-area guesthouse from Sascha Jovanovic on Airbnb in 2021. Problems between the two of them started bubbling up five months into her six-month reservation, reports the Los Angeles Times, and after her scheduled stay ended on March 19, 2022, Jovanovic says she refused to leave or pay rent. She has been there ever since. Hirschhorn and Jovanovic are battling each other in court in a contentious back-and-forth the Times delves into deeply. Due to tenant protections Los Angeles has in place, Jovanovic can't evict Hirschhorn without a legal reason, which he doesn't have.

And after the city got involved, it was discovered that the guesthouse was never approved for occupancy and has a shower constructed without a permit. Jovanovic says those are oversights on his part; he had been successfully renting the unit out on Airbnb since 2019 with no previous problems. Those issues, however, make things even more complicated for Jovanovic. Hirschhorn wants all the money she did pay returned to her and she wants Jovanovic to pay her a $100,000 relocation fee before she'll go anywhere. Jovanovic wants his nearly $60,000 in unpaid rent, per ABC 7; he also wants her off his family's property, a luxury estate in the hills of Brentwood.

"I am not going to settle," he tells KTLA. "This cannot be right and people like this have to be stopped." Adds his lawyer, "If she's right, you can rent an Airbnb for two days and refuse to leave on the third unless the landlord pays you to leave. ... 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." As for why Airbnb isn't getting involved beyond deleting Hirschhorn's account, the Times reports Jovanovic goofed by offering to allow Hirschhorn to stay a couple more weeks, until April 12, 2022, to give her time to find another place. Because the stay was extended off-platform, Airbnb says it has no role in the matter.

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LA Mag calls Hirschhorn a "serial squatter," noting she had previously lived in a Bay Area home rent-free for more than a year, using COVID regulations and health concerns (which she is also using in her argument against Jovanovic) to avoid eviction. That case had been settled shortly before she moved into Jovanovic's guest house. The New York Post notes Hirschhorn is a Harvard graduate. "She is a smart person who knows how to manipulate the system, and it is dangerous that people like this are allowed to do this," Jovanovic says. As for Hirschhorn, her attorney tells People the articles about his client amount to "a malicious smear campaign about a tenant who did not do the things Jovanovic is telling the public she did." (More Airbnb stories.)

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