After more than 500 days not paying rent, Airbnb guest refuses to leave — and then demands $100,000 to vacate

Host says that woman’s stay was supposed to end in April 2022, but she then would not move out

Faiza Saqib
Sunday 08 October 2023 08:03 BST
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A woman who has refused to leave a Los Angeles-area Airbnb is now demanding to be paid $100,000 to get out, according to a settlement offer reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

The host, Sascha Jovanovic, said the woman’s stay was scheduled to end in April 2022, but she then refused to move out. Elizabeth Hirschhorn, dubbed as the “tenant from hell”, has been living rent-free ever since.

Mr Jovanovic, who owns the estate where the homestay is located in the hills of Brentwood, told the Times he cannot go into his home and “know that I’m safe when a potentially hostile person is living there.

“I’m thinking about it at all times,” he added.

Hirschhorn declined to speak to the outlet to share her side of the story; however, her attorney, Colin Walshok, argued that she was not required to pay rent.

“The landlord broke the law and tried to make money by renting out an illegal bootleg unit,” he told the Times. “After he was caught, instead of doing the right thing, he has resorted to bullying, harassment and the filing of frivolous lawsuits containing elaborate false stories, all in attempt to cover his tracks.”

After deciding to put out his small guesthouse for rent, Mr Jovanovic approved a long-term stay for Ms Hirschhorn in September of 2021.

The space was rented for six months at a rate of $105 per night, which with fees brought the total to $20,793 for 187 nights.

The pair got on well in the beginning, sharing tea and small talk, but there were some warning signs that Mr Jovanovic said he should have listened to.

Another Airbnb host had put out a review on Ms Hirschhorn’s profile that said “she had a lot of particular needs that I eventually could not accommodate.”

And then, Mr Jovanovic claims, he went into the guesthouse to check on electric blinds that had stopped working and noticed there was water damage and signs of mould around the sink, problems he says were not there before Hirschhorn arrived.

Wanting to repair the sink and stop the spread of mould, the landlord said he offered to pay his guest to stay at a hotel for a few days and also offered $1,000 toward a hotel of her choice, according to Airbnb messages and emails exchanged between the two.

However, Ms Hirschhorn declined, saying: “I don’t feel safe being forced to vacate with a housing disability and the high risks of Covid-19 complications.” She then quoted L.A. County’s Covid-19 Tenant Protections Resolution and showed a 2011 doctor’s note pointing out chemical sensitivities.

In addition, the emails showed he had also offered her to stay in his home, which she declined.

Ms Hirschhorn is now counter-suing Mr Jovanovic and claims that he “inappropriately invited” her to move into his house with him.

Ms Hirschhorn’s Airbnb stay was scheduled to end on 19 March; however, Mr Jovanovic offered her a month’s extension in order to find somewhere else to live, something that backfired on him because Airbnb was then free from getting involved in the dispute.

“Once everything went to hell, Airbnb was out,” said Sebastian Rucci, an attorney representing Mr Jovanovic, according to the Times.

Then came the new deadline and Ms Hirschhorn stayed put. In an email, she said: “I can’t leave on Apr. 12 as relocation and funding plan is not in place, it would be unsafe. If you want to work something out I am willing to do that.”

Since then, she has not paid any rent and she still remains — over 540 days later — having claimed in a May 2022 email that “Your actions and alleged repairs are made knowing that of my disability requiring accommodation, I believe it was made to harass and scare me.”

Mr Jovanovic tried serving multiple eviction notices, but a housing department investigator, Pedro Gonzalez, said Mr Jovanovic had to withdraw his eviction notices as the building did not comply with the city’s building-safety rules.

But Ms Hirschhorn refused to let the host inside the property so it could be updated to comply with the city’s building codes.

Mr Jovanovic is incredulous, telling the Times: “How can you stay in someone’s home for a year and a half and not have any feeling of embarrassment or responsibility?”

The Independent has contacted Airbnb for a comment.

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