Lawsuits allege Airbnb guests ran rampant at Hollywood apartment complex

Filings accuse landlord Redwood Urban of allowing short-term rentals at 270-unit development, which they say is rife with health and safety hazards

1724 Highland Avenue (Redwood Urban)
1724 Highland Avenue (Redwood Urban)

Three lawsuits from former tenants at a sprawling apartment complex in Hollywood accuse the landlord of flagrantly violating the city’s short-term rental ordinance.

Airbnb guests allegedly threw parties at the 270-unit development, according to the lawsuits recently filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The complaints say landlord Redwood Urban operated a building that “lacked the basic characteristics necessary for human habitation.”

The complaints come three years after Redwood Urban paid $132.5 million for sprawling complex at 1724 North Highland Avenue. The seller was Essex Property Trust, which had paid $120 million for the building in 2013.

Essex Property, which spent millions to successfully defeat a Nov. 3 ballot that could have led to expanded rent control, is a defendant in the lawsuit. A company spokesperson referred all questions to Redwood Urban.

Redwood Urban responded with a statement that read in part: “Unfortunately, these three lawsuits are part of a growing effort to assert complaints against landlords in order to promote leverage for tenants and their attorneys during these trying current economic conditions. We are confident that these unfounded allegations will be exposed as such.”

In one of the lawsuits filed in August, former tenant Yalezka Gia Lombardi detailed plumbing and gas leaks, and alleged Redwood Urban was “trying to push her out” in order to create illegal college dorms.

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A complaint filed this month by ex-tenants Crystal Martin and Charmel Catrell make similar charges. They also claim Redwood Urban continues “to solicit short-term and vacation renters to operate the building.”

The landlord has doubled down on hosting short-term stays, the former renters contend, despite L.A. having cited the building in 2017 for “illegal hotel transient occupancy.”

The Airbnb guests have purportedly caused “thefts and break-ins” of non-Airbnb units, according to the lawsuits.

A city ordinance passed last year requires all short-term stay hosts to register with the city, and stipulates they must only use their primary residence for short stays.

None of the 1724 Highland Avenue apartments is registered with the city’s Airbnb platform, according to a city spokesperson. The city received a complaint in November 2019 about unlawful short term stays at the premise, and responded with a warning letter to the landlord.

City officials contended in August that “thousands” of short-term rental units are being used illegally, but did not specify how they would address the violations.

A May report by the L.A. city controller found that listings on Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms plunged 49 percent since the ordinance regulating short-term stays went into effect late last year.