Lawsuit: “Nightmare” tenant sublets LA home on Airbnb, pockets $216K

Rental scheme allegedly involved fake address and listing with no exterior photos

Lawsuit: “Nightmare” Tenant Sublets LA Home on Airbnb
Musician Nicholas Jarzabek, Nikeeta Sriram and 1287 South Highland Avenue, Los Angeles (Google Maps, LinkedIn, Instagram/nick.diver, Getty)

“He seemed like the perfect tenant, until he turned into a nightmare.”

That’s what Nikeeta Sriram said about the person she signed to occupy her Mid-Wilshire home at 1287 South Highland Avenue — who then allegedly rented it out on Airbnb from a world away, pocketing $215,954 in 16 months, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing an eviction lawsuit.

And there was nothing the 31-year-old grad student landlord could do about it.

Trapped in the Airbnb ordeal, the Netflix executive has watched her two-story, three-bedroom home and one-bedroom guest house rack up damage as she fights to reclaim her property, according to the lawsuit. 

The man accused of taking over the rental, Nicholas Jarzabek, lives in England, 5,000 miles away. Neither Jarzabek nor his attorney responded to multiple requests for comment.

It all started after the 31-year-old executive, then an MBA student, paid $1.68 million for the property in March 2022. Not wanting to break her lease, she decided to stay in her place and rent out her new home.

She rented the house to Jarzabek, known to fans as Nick Driver, a touring musician who just released his latest album, “Black Liquorice.” 

Jarzabek, a 36-year-old native of Idaho, seemed like the perfect tenant. He had more than $1 million in the bank, according to bank statements reviewed by The Times. He had a white Tesla and wore a Rolex watch.

“He talked about the house nicely and offered to put rugs down so he wouldn’t scratch the floors,” Sriram told the Times. “He said he’d treat it like it was his own.”

Instead, what resulted was an elaborate scheme to make money off her L.A. home. The first year, all was quiet. Jarzabek always paid the $8,500 rent early or on time and never asked for repairs. 

Whenever the home’s ADT alarm was tripped, the tenant was quick to respond with texts such as “Sorry my mistake,” or “Messed up the code.” 

Jarzabek’s alleged Airbnb scheme was revealed on Dec. 29, 16 months into his lease. The ADT alarm was triggered so many times the company called the police, who sent a cop to the home the next day.

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When Sriram called ADT, they said the police reported that Airbnb guests had triggered the alarm, according to the Times.

The Jarzabek lease banned subletting, including short-term rentals such as Airbnb. Sriram called Jarzabek, who denied renting it out. 

But when she looked on Airbnb, she found her main house listed for $688 per night, and the back house for $496, according to Airbnb listings in the eviction lawsuit she later filed. Together, they had more than 100 reviews.

An Airbnb host known as Rich Jacobs used two strategies to keep the home-share listings hidden from Sriram. They never included photos of the home’s exterior. The listing also gave a false address, first telling guests the Airbnb was at 1830 South La Brea Avenue, a motel called the Starlight Inn.

Once the house was booked, Jacobs messaged guests telling them the actual address, according to Airbnb reviews.

The strategy concealed Sriram’s actual address and allowed the host to avoid posting a registration number typically required for Airbnb listings in L.A., but not for hotels or motels. 

As part of the eviction lawsuit, Sriram subpoenaed Airbnb for information on Jarzabek and found the phone number registered for Jacobs with Airbnb had a +44 code — the country code for the United Kingdom.

The subpoena also revealed that, for 16 months between 2022 and last year, the Airbnb listing generated $215,954 in payouts, averaging $13,500 per month, all from a property the host didn’t own, wasn’t authorized to sublet and allegedly wasn’t in the country to operate.

The Times reached out to Airbnb, which then removed the listings from the site. The firm then deleted the Jacobs account and its listings, according to an unidentified Airbnb spokesperson.

“There is no place on Airbnb for hosts who circumvent the City of Los Angeles’ home-sharing ordinance or our terms of service,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to work closely with city officials to address hosts who try to evade the rules just as we have done in the past.”

Two years after she bought the house, Sriram is still working to boot Jarzabek from her Mid-Wilshire home. This year, she estimates she has lost $100,000 between property damage, legal fees and lost rent, since Jarzabek stopped paying after she filed the eviction notice.

— Dana Bartholomew

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